By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Eastern Conference finals features a matchup of the last two WNBA MVPs, with Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun winning the series opener.
Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn likely is banking on Tamika Catchings having a better performance to help back her bold prediction for Game 2.
The visiting Sun look to return to the WNBA finals for the first time in seven years Monday night by sweeping the Fever, who hope to send the series back to Connecticut for a decisive third game.
Charles averaged 18.0 points and a league-high 10.5 rebounds in the regular season while leading Connecticut to the East's top seed and capturing the MVP in only her second season.
She scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and added four blocks to guide the Sun to a 76-64 win over Indiana in Game 1 on Friday. She had 10 points and six rebounds in the third quarter to help break open a game that was tied at 30 at halftime.
Kara Lawson scored 16 points and Tan White added 13 for Connecticut, which has won eight of nine.
"In the second half I just wanted to set the tone, just getting on the (offensive) boards as much as I could to score," Charles said.
Catchings, the 2011 MVP, struggled for the Fever, as Asjha Jones held her to seven points and 2-of-14 shooting.
"Defense is always my priority," said Jones, who also scored 11 points. "Guarding her was my main focus, trying to stay between her and the basket."
Coach Mike Thibault said shutting down Catchings was a main factor in the Sun taking the upper hand in the series.
"We just made her work to catch the ball, and made her uncomfortable when she caught it," Thibault said. "Asjha, I thought, did a terrific job. It was a key matchup."
Connecticut looks to complete the sweep in order to return to the WNBA finals for the first time since 2005 - the second straight year the Sun lost in the finals. Dunn, though, sees things going a different way in Game 2.
"We're going to take away five of those second-chance points (for the Sun)," Dunn said. "We're going to get four or five more of our shots. We're going to get to the free-throw line two or three more times and we're going to win the second game."
If Catchings again struggles in her bid to extend Indiana's season, Dunn may need Katie Douglas to have another solid game to support that prediction.
Douglas, who spent her first seven seasons with the Connecticut franchise, scored a game-high 27 points while hitting 11 of 19 shots, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
"I like it here in Connecticut," Douglas said. "I'm very comfortable with the rims, the floor, the lighting, you know, everything that a shooter kind of needs."
Douglas, who scored 24 points Tuesday to help Indiana eliminate Atlanta, hopes to help the Fever force a decisive Game 3 back in Connecticut on Thursday.
The Fever haven't appeared in the WNBA finals since falling to Phoenix in five games in 2009.
Updated October 7, 2012