Atlanta Dream's Iziane Castro Marques, who scored 30 points, signals to the crowd as Atlanta defeats Indiana, 94-77, in Game 2 of the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals in Atlanta on Sunday. The series is tied at 1-1 and shifts back to Indiana for Game 3 on Tuesday.
ATLANTA — Iziane Castro Marques stepped in for fellow Brazilian Erika de Souza and delivered a scoring outburst that extended Atlanta's season.
Castro Marques replaced de Souza in the starting lineup and scored a season-high 30 points as the Dream beat the Indiana Fever 94-77 in Game 2 on Sunday to even the Eastern Conference finals.
Indiana's Tamika Catchings, the WNBA MVP, hurt her right foot late in the game, leaving her status uncertain for Tuesday night's decisive Game 3 in Indianapolis. The winner gets the Minnesota Lynx, which finished off the Phoenix Mercury in two games late Sunday night in the Western Conference finals.
Catchings had only eight points, seven below her average, before leaving with 4:54 remaining after she landed on Alison Bales' foot when attempting to defend Bales' shot. Catchings was in obvious distress on the court as she was surrounded by her teammates, who waved to the Atlanta bench for a doctor.
The seven-time All-Star forward was carried off the court by her teammates.
"The good news is it's not her Achilles'," said Indiana coach Lin Dunn, who said she would know more about Catchings' status on Monday.
Catchings had surgery on her right Achilles' in 2007.
Katie Douglas, who made five 3-pointers and led Indiana with 25 points, said she has not given up on Catchings returning for Tuesday night's game.
"I know Catch," Douglas said. "I know if she has to crawl, she will crawl for this team. I don't want to speculate on how we are going to play without her until we know for sure."
Angel McCoughtry had 27 points for Atlanta, which thrived with a small lineup made necessary when de Souza, the starting center, left to play for Brazil in an Olympics qualifying tournament in Colombia.
Castro Marques averaged only 7.6 points in the regular season, never scoring more than 19.
"I was just very focused today," Castro Marques said. "I knew the importance to step into the lineup. Once I made a couple of shots, I kept going. I thought 'This is my night.'"
Jessica Davenport had 12 points and Tammy Sutton-Brown scored 11 for the Fever.
Castro Marques said she had the option to join de Souza on Brazil's national team.
"I tried to stay out of her way and let her make her decision," Castro Marques said. "I made mine and I was leaving her to make hers."
Dream coach Marynell Meadors said she had been in talks with the Brazilian team since January. Meadors said the talks included "a lot of threats" from Brazil's team that if de Souza missed the qualifying tournament "it would cause her not to play in the Olympics."
Meadors could have plugged in the 6-foot-7 Bales for de Souza but instead adjusted with a small lineup to emphasize Atlanta's speed. The 6-foot Castro Marques joined the lineup as a third guard with Lindsey Harding and Armintie Price.
"I couldn't ask for anyone to step in and play any better than what Izi did today," Meadors said. "She was the X factor for us that kept us going. She hit tough shots."
The quicker Atlanta lineup took a 25-11 advantage in fast-break points.
Castro Marques had 13 points in the third quarter, filling the scoring void left by the loss of de Souza, who was averaging 12 points and 10.7 rebounds in the playoffs.
Douglas joked that it's not to late for Castro Marques to join de Souza.
"Maybe she should have went with the Brazilian national team, too," Douglas said. "Can we give her a call-up?"
Atlanta never trailed, but Indiana closed to 57-55 early in the second half. The Dream answered with a 12-2 run capped by McCoughtry's three-point play.
The Dream stretched the lead to 85-69, when Bales made a jump shot over Catchings, who took a few steps and then collapsed to the floor.
Tangela Smith, who led Indiana with 25 points in its 82-74 win in Game 1, battled foul problems and had only five points.
McCoughtry, held to 11 points while limited by foul trouble in the opening game, regrouped with 13 points in the first period. McCoughtry had four points in a 10-0 run late in the period to push the Dream's lead to 34-23.
Sancho Lyttle, Armintie Price and Lindsey Harding each had 10 points as each of Atlanta's starters scored in double figures. Harding had seven assists.