The Fever scored just 22 points combined in 2nd and 3rd quarters
INDIANAPOLIS – Before her team’s game against Chicago on Saturday, Indiana coach Pokey Chatman said the Fever needed to prevent the Sky from getting off to a fast start. She worried that if Chicago got into a groove early, it could be a long night for her team.
The Fever raced out to an 11-4 lead six minutes into the game. They made 10 of 20 shots in the first quarter and seemed confident they could to pick up their fifth win of the season.
That confidence wore off over the next 10 minutes as the Fever went scoreless for the first six minutes of the second quarter. The momentum they built from their fast start was gone and they could never recover, losing by a final of 70-64.
Indiana shot just 16-58 (28 percent) after the first quarter.
“I thought in the first half, we moved the basketball, the ball didn’t stick and we got some good looks,” Chatman said. “Then when we got down to the fourth quarter, I thought the ball stayed on one side of the floor for maybe one or two actions, not the third and fourth, and when you’re grinding it out in a low-scoring game and you’re really playing scouting-report defense, those things become magnified.”
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Allie Quigley hit threes on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter that pushed the Sky’s lead to 10. Chicago led by seven to nine points for most of the fourth quarter.
“In this league, (holding your opponent to) 70 points should be enough to win,” Chatman said after the game.
Timely shots by Chicago coupled by Indiana’s poor shooting prevented the Fever from gaining any momentum after the first quarter. Indiana started the second half by scoring six straight points to build a 35-32 lead, but Courtney Vandersloot hit a three immediately after that to tie the game.
Indiana would never lead again.
The Fever had three 4-0 runs in the final quarter, but nothing more than that. One of those mini-runs cut the Sky’s lead to 56-49 with 4:57 to play. On Chicago’s next possession, Cheyenne Parker grabbed an offensive rebound, then got the ball to Quigley for an open three to push the lead back to 10.
“I want to give (Chicago) credit,” Chatman said. “You’ve got a veteran core over there on offense that made plays when they needed it on the offensive end.
While both teams shot about the same percentage from the floor, Chicago made 8 of 21 three-pointers while the Fever hit just 3 of 15 from behind the arc. Quigley hit 4 of her 6 three-point attempts and led all players with 18 points. Stefanie Dolson made both of her three-point shots.
Chatman wasn’t thrilled with her team’s perimeter defense, but realized the Fever lost because they simply couldn’t get a basket when they needed one.
“We played hard enough on the defensive end to win the game,” Chatman said. “We just didn’t make shots.”
Both teams have an off-night shooting
The Fever and Sky entered the game with the highest shooting percentages in the league. The Fever were first at 46% and the Sky were second at 45.5%. Those percentages took a hit as the Fever made 26 of 78 shots (33.3%) while they Sky shot 22 of 68 (32.4%). According to the Fever’s postgame press release, that’s the lowest shooting percentage in a game for both teams this season. Each team also set a season-low for points scored.
“The shots we missed were open,” Candice Dupree said. “So we can’t pass up shots like that. It’s not going to happen every game where we’re missing those kinds of shots. I think we’ve just got to make sure we maintain the same intensity defensively, whether we are hitting shots or not.”
The Fever feel terrible about the game, but positive about their 4-4 start
The Fever lost their third straight home game, but they still feel good about the growth they have made from a year ago. Last year, Indiana lost its first 10 games, seven of which were by single digits. This year, they have won two close games – the opener at New York (81-80) and Thursday at Dallas (76-72).
Last season, the Fever were near the bottom of the league in field goal shooting and opponent’s field goal percentage. After Saturday’s games, Indiana ranked second in field goal percentage (44.2%) and have the second-best field goal percentage allowed (39.7%).
Can the Fever shake off their poor shooting night against Chicago as they hit the road for six of their next seven games? The players are confident they can do so as they prepare to play at Atlanta on Wednesday.
“I don’t think our morale is down,” Tiffany Mitchell said. “You know, a lot of those games that we lost, we should have won. So that’s a good thing about it. We know we have enough in this locker room. We’re not down on ourselves. We know we have a good team. And when we see these teams again, I think it will be a different story.”
The Fever will play at Chicago on Friday. Then they go to Seattle on Sunday for a rematch against the Storm, who beat the Fever 84-82 on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Teaira McCowan is starting to seeing playing time down the stretch in close games
McCowan was one of two Fever players who shot over 50% against the Sky (Natalie Achonwa was 7-12). McCowan made 4 of her 5 shots and finished with eight points, six of which came on putbacks from offensive rebounds. McCowan’s four rebounds were all on the offensive end.
Chatman is still experimenting with having Achonwa and McCowan in at the same time. During the last four games, Chatman has gone with Achonwa over McCowan down the stretch thanks to her versatility and veteran leadership. McCowan sat out all of the fourth quarter during Tuesday’s two-point loss to Seattle. Then McCowan played 4 minutes, 47 seconds during the fourth quarter in Dallas and 3 minutes, 23 seconds in the final quarter against Chicago. Chatman likes what she’s seen from her 6’7 rookie down the stretch in these tight games.
“I thought we got quality minutes out of (McCowan) and as she goes through more of these teams and starts to get a beat on the rhythm of different players, I think she’ll continue to have a positive impact for us,” Chatman said.
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