No part of basketball is measured, calculated, or separated by the number nine. There’s no nine-point shot. Never nine players on the floor. Nobody references a nine-point lead until it becomes noteworthy as it reaches double digits. But the Indiana Fever pitched a complete game no-hitter; nine-straight defining innings of lights out defense; a clean sheet of 90 minutes.
“The way we have played in our last nine quarters is the way that we want to play,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said after the team’s win against Seattle on Sunday (July 10).
In the last 90 minutes of Fever basketball, Indiana went 2-1 on their recent West Coast road trip. They nearly did the unthinkable in the fourth quarter against league-leading Los Angeles when they scored 39 points, tying a WNBA record, but fell short in a 21-point comeback attempt. Then, they blanketed Phoenix and Seattle in suffocating defense for four quarters apiece.
“We’ve been highly active on the defensive end of the floor,” White said. “We’re shooting the ball better. We’re just giving better effort. It’s not so much in the numbers as it is the way we’ve played.”
Indiana has scored 210 points in those last nine quarters. Fever opponents have scored 169.
Indiana has shot 82-for-148 (55.4 percent) during that spell. Fever opponents have shot 59-for-125 (47.2 percent).
Indiana has shot 17-for-37 (45.9 percent) from the 3-point line. Fever opponents have shot 17-for-41 (41.4 percent).
Factor in that they’re 86.2 percent from the free-throw line during that streak–and a WNBA-best 84.9 percent on the season–and opponents might have trouble figuring out how to stop Indiana.
And that’s just the offense.
The Fever outrebounded opponents by 15 during the nine-quarter stretch and committed 18 fewer turnovers. A WNBA season-high 27 takeaways against Phoenix was as impressive of a defensive performance as you could find in a WNBA game this year. Indiana swiped 18 steals, six by Briann January, causing 36 points off turnovers in a stifling defensive showcase.
The Fever held Phoenix to just 10 points in both the second and third quarter–60 points total–while suppressing Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi to just 18 points combined on 33.3 percent shooting. The WNBA’s highest scoring team (86.8 points per game) was held to its lowest total of the season.
“We knew we needed to pick it up,” January said. “I think in that last quarter in L.A., we cranked up our defense. We carried that over to Phoenix and our defense spurs our offense.”
The defense spurs the offense, but first-half deficits have spurred second-half runs. Indiana trailed at the half in all three West Coast games. The Fever had yet to win a game in which they trailed at the half this season. Then they won two, nearly three – in a row.
SECOND HALF STATS
After taking the now-18-1 Sparks to the wire and racing past the Mercury and Storm, all on the road, the Fever have moved into a tie for fifth in the playoff picture while squeezing Phoenix and Seattle to eighth and ninth.
At the 20-game mark in the season, Indiana (9-11) is healthy, hungry, and beginning to figure it out on defense; whatever “it” is.
“I really don’t know what [the difference] is,” White said. “I think we just challenged our team to go out and play hard and compete, and they did. I wish I knew what it was because I’d bottle it up and spray it out there every game.”