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Fever hot heading into All-Star break

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Fever are on a roll and looking like a team that could return to the WNBA finals.

Indiana (11-6) heads into the All-Star break having won six of its past eight games, but is just third in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta and Washington. Fourth-place Connecticut is 10-8 in the six-team conference.

Things aren't so balanced out West. Seattle leads the way with a 16-2 record, but no one else has more than seven wins.

New York, the East's last-place team, would be in second place in the West.

"Normally, it's the West that's like that, and everybody is fighting for the top," Indiana All-Star forward Tamika Catchings said. "This year, it's kind of like the flip-flop. The East is the conference to beat and everything is really close. The level of play each team plays with is a lot higher."

Indiana enters the break coming off a 100-72 win over the Tulsa Shock on Thursday. It was the second-highest point total in team history, and the 35-point second quarter was a team record. The bench scored a team-record 50 points.

"This was a great way to finish the first half of the season," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "It's good to see the bench play so well. Everyone stepped up and hit big shots."

The Fever lost three of their first five games this season while Catchings, fellow All-Star Katie Douglas and starters Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown adjusted to missing training camp after a late return from playing in Turkey.

One of those losses in May was a 79-74 defeat at Tulsa, a game the Fever led heading into the fourth quarter. This week's game "was a payback," Catchings said.

"There was no comparison when you look at the two games," she said. "We did a better job moving the ball. We finished them off rather than letting them come back."

The Fever are two games behind Atlanta, something Douglas doesn't mind — for now.

"I'm happy we are where we are," Douglas said. "It could be worse. There may be some mixed emotions because we would have liked to have started a little better, but we had some situations with us coming back. I'm proud of the way we've continued to fight back and put ourselves in position at the halfway point. We're still in contention of winning the Eastern Conference and that's what matters."

Catchings and Douglas have done their share to help the Fever remain a contender.

Catchings is ninth in the league in averaging 16.2 points and leads the league with 2.7 steals. She also averages 6.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Douglas opened the season in a shooting slump, but has rebounded. She is averaging 13.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

The Fever have remained a strong defensive team, a key to their run of five straight playoff appearances. Indiana allows a league-low 70.2 points.

The Fever's only two losses in their past eight games were by four at league-leading Seattle and by three at Washington. Indiana is one of two teams with a win over Seattle this season, a 72-65 victory June 17 in Indianapolis.

"I think we're definitely getting better and better," Catchings said. "I'm not satisfied. When you look at the games we lost, we should have won three for sure and possibly all of them. From that standpoint, I'm not satisfied, but when you look at where we came from in the beginning to where we're about to go, I'm expecting big things."

Douglas doesn't expect an easy path.

"I think the East is extremely wide open," she said. "It's extremely competitive this year. It's anybody's ball game right now. We're going to take this break and start to get in our playoff mentality and get things rolling."