The All-Star break has come and gone for the Indiana Fever, and now the team is setting its sights on trying to right the ship during the second half of the year. With a record of 8-14, members of the team feel like they’ve been on a roller coaster.
“The season’s been up-and-down,” Fever guard Briann January said. “We’ve had some huge wins, but then we’ve had some stretches we just got away from what we know we can do.”
“We win a game, lose a game, win two and then lose three, so it’s just been up and down,” fellow guard Erica Wheeler added.
While consistency has been an issue, the team believes the main source of their troubles has been their defense. The Fever are allowing the third-most points in the league (83.8 PPG), and opposing teams are making 48.1 percent of their shot attempts and 37.8 percent of their 3-pointers. Both numbers rank last in the WNBA.
“We work on it day-in and day-out, but I think at this point it just becomes a mindset,” veteran forward Candice Dupree said. “We just have to make the decision to do it and take it as a personal challenge and get it done.”
January agrees, but even though the numbers show the defense has been a pitfall, she’s encouraged by how the team defended in their last few games before the All-Star break.
“Playing great defense night-in and night-out, it takes a lot of energy,” January said. “It takes effort. It takes heart. That’s what we’re getting back to. I think people are understanding the value in team defense and taking ownership in your assignment and going after whoever you’re matched up with every night.”
The Fever recognize that if they can get the defense where it needs to be, good things are bound to happen, as they believe they possess enough offensive talent to win.
“We have able scorers, and I think that’s something that we are understanding, so if we just take care of the defensive side of the court, we’re gonna be in any game we play,” January said.
Besides the defense, the other thing the team has their eyes on are the league standings. The top eight teams make it to the postseason, and right now, Indiana sits in 10th but they are just 1.5 games back with 12 to play.
The Fever have been to the playoffs a league record 12-straight times, and though their current record isn’t ideal, the team is by no means sounding any alarms.
“We’re never out of it I don’t think,” Mitchell said. “That’s never my mindset. I don’t think that’s our team’s mindset that we’re out of it.”
“I know we’re making the playoffs,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think we’re in a desperate moment right now. It’s not like ‘Oh my God. We may not make the playoffs.’ It’s not that.”
Veterans like January have faced similar situations and think Indiana just needs to stay together at all costs.
“I think everybody would be super concerned in our locker room if we didn’t have the talent, but we do, and so we just have to stay the course,” January said.
“We just have to focus on ourselves and not separate. It’s easy to do that when you have a few losses in a row. It’s easy for the team to pull apart. It’s easy to look inward. It’s easy to get very selfish in your thoughts and not think team first. That was one of my messages to the team, just we gotta stay united, and we gotta stay focused, and we’ll get through this.”
Still, the team knows they have to play with a heightened level of intensity during the second half of the year.
“We will contend for a playoff spot if we continue to play with urgency, and I think that’s the key,” January said. “We have to play with a playoff mentality every time we step out on the court.”