WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

No. 2 Indiana (16-18) vs. No. 3 Washington (16-18)

The Fever are in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year, which is a testament to the overall strength of the organization, its coaching and its superstar, Tamika Catchings. This year -- Catch's 13th season in the WNBA -- back issues kept her out until July 5. That didn't stop her from scoring the winning basket in the All-Star Game or leading the Fever in scoring again (16.1 PPG).

Meanwhile, Washington made some big changes in coach Mike Thibault's second season in D.C., including the trade of Crystal Langhorne. It took a lot of this season for the Mystics -- who are pretty young overall -- to really figure out who they were. But they've seemed to get it, especially in the last month of the regular season.

Key matchup: Coaching. This is Lin Dunn's last year on the sideline for Indiana, and she has had to bring this team along -- both with nurturing and some tail-kicking. Dunn's Fever beat Thibault two years ago in the Eastern Conference finals when he was still coach of the Connecticut Sun. These are two coaches who've strategized against each other for a long time, and they're two of the best at that that you'll find.

X factor: Erlana Larkins. The Indiana forward has to rebound, which is one of the things she does best. If the Fever can get double-digit scoring from her as well, all the better. But defense and working the boards are what the Fever need from her most.

Regular-season series: They tied 2-2.

Voepel's predictions: Fever in three games. As befits a series that was split between the teams this season, we can expect this to go the distance.

Smith's predictions: Fever in three games. Dunn's final season is going to end with a first-round playoff win over a Washington team that came into the postseason with three losses in four games.

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