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2014 WNBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview

From The Sports Network

(SportsNetwork.com) - It should be no surprise that Indiana and Chicago are playing for the WNBA's Eastern Conference championship.

Indiana has reached the playoffs 10 straight years and is playing in the East finals for the seventh time in that span. It's also the fourth straight conference finals appearance for the Fever, who won their only title two years ago and also reached the WNBA Finals in 2009.

Chicago, meanwhile, is making its first trip to the conference finals, but the Sky were considered a championship contender at the outset of the 2014 campaign after winning the East regular season in 2013. Injuries and illnesses, though, nearly wrecked the talented squad.

With 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne sidelined for much of the season because of Lyme disease and stellar point guard Courtney Vandersloot also out with a knee injury, the Sky stumbled through June and July before the two returned and helped the team squeeze into the playoffs as a dangerous fourth seed.

Delle Donne's tremendous effort in Game 3 of the conference semifinals against Atlanta -- 17 fourth-quarter points to fuel a comeback from 17 points down in an 81-80 win -- allowed the Sky to advance.

Now, Chicago will have a chance for redemption. The Sky entered the 2013 postseason as the East top seed and were quickly swept out of playoffs by Indiana.

The Fever and Sky met five times during the 2014 regular season and Indiana managed to win three times. However, the teams were at full strength in just one of the matchups because of the Chicago issues and an early-season injury to Indiana's Tamika Catchings.

Catchings, the WNBA's all-time postseason scoring leader, was sidelined for 17 games with a back injury. She played only once against Chicago, scoring 25 points in the Fever's 71-67 victory on Aug. 16. Delle Donne had 14 points off the bench in that contest.

The two should provide plenty of fireworks -- and will probably see much of each other with Catchings, a five-time defensive player of the year, likely guarding Delle Donne.

Indiana's core group from its 2012 championship -- Catchings, Briann January, Erlana Larkins and Shavonte Zellous -- will try to send retiring coach Lin Dunn out a winner. The Fever advanced to the conference title series with a sweep of Washington.

Chicago, though, can match up with that quartet, as Delle Donne and Vandersloot combine with veteran center Sylvia Fowles and Sixth Woman of the Year Allie Quigley to form its own talented group that should make this an entertaining series.

08/30 12:11:37 ET