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Fever sweep Sky to move on to Eastern final

INDIANAPOLIS — Even after winning the regular season series with Chicago, the defending WNBA-champion Indiana Fever weren't taking anything for granted in their first-round playoff series against the Sky.

"What we did in the regular season really doesn't matter," Fever coach Lin Dunn said of her team's 3-1 record against the Sky in the regular season. "I think the upper hand we had was experience. Postseason experience, championship experience. Don't underestimate the value of that."

That postseason experience paid off Sunday with the Fever rolling past rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne and the Sky 79-57 to complete a two-game sweep of the conference's top seed. It's the third consecutive postseason series win over a higher-seeded opponent for the Fever (18-18), including in last year's Eastern Conference and WNBA finals.

The drive for a repeat will continue against either Atlanta or Washington, who play the decisive game in their series Monday night. The winner of that series will host Game 1 of the East final on Thursday.

Dunn and the Fever knew they would have to rely on their defense against the Sky (24-12), who boast a formidable offensive trio in Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince, and Indiana forced the three into a combined 11-of-34 performance from the field

"We came into this series knowing Chicago had three good players, and we had to defend at a high level," Indiana's Shavonte Zellous said.

Fowles had 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Prince and Delle Donne each scored 10 for Chicago, which was 17-of-57 from the field overall. The high-scoring Delle Donne had no points in the second half.

"I'm looking at some areas of play where we were absolutely dominated," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said, also mentioning rebounding. "It manifests itself in stagnating offensively."

Tamika Catchings had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Fever — her 20th double-double in 49 career playoff games. Catchings also moved into second on the league's all-time list for playoff rebounds. She is already the WNBA's leader in playoff free throws and steals and is third in scoring.

It was the first playoff series for the Sky franchise.

"They're going to be a team to deal with in the future," Dunn said.

Chicago missed it first six shots from the field and still jumped out to a 6-3 lead thanks to six free throws, but Catchings answered with a 6-0 run of her own that put Indiana ahead for good.

Erlana Larkins added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Fever, and Zellous, the WNBA's most improved player, scored 10.

The Fever's 47-27 halftime lead was their largest in postseason history and biggest this season.

Chicago opened the second half with a 5-0 run, but Catchings scored on a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to put Indiana up 50-32. The Sky would get no closer than 18 the rest of the way.