INDIANAPOLIS — The Storm used a blistering second quarter in which they scored 29 points on 11-17 shooting to overcome a first quarter deficit and knock off the Fever, 94-79, Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“You just gotta battle,” said guard Kelsey Mitchell. “That’s all you can. It’s not about the personnel or the scouting. It’s just battling, and they do a good job of that… I think that’s why they’re so dominant.”
Natasha Howard led the way for Seattle with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Breanna Stewart, who is tied for the WNBA scoring lead with Dallas star Liz Cambage at 22.8 points per contest, had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Sue Bird rounded out the top performers for the team with the WNBA’s best record, as the veteran guard scored 16 points on 7-8 shooting and had 8 assists. Jewell Loyd also chipped in 10 for the Storm.
Indiana was led by forward Candice Dupree, who paced the Fever with 22 points and 8 rebounds. Dupree, who scored 25 in the team’s win over the Liberty on Saturday feels like she is in an offensive rhythm.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive,” says the veteran forward. “Had a couple games where I was really smart in the second half, so I’m just trying to stay locked in when I’m in the game, staying aggressive.”
Victoria Vivians had 15 points and five rebounds while fellow rookie Kelsey Mitchell added 14 points and four assists in the loss.
Seattle got off to a quick start as Stewart completed a 3-point play on the layup and the foul and then hit a 3-pointer in her next attempt for six of her 10 first quarter points. Bird made a jumper and then knifed through the defense on the next possession, leaving the Indiana defense dazed. Fever head coach Pokey Chatman then called a timeout, as her team trailed 14-5.
Indiana responded out of the timeout, as went on a 13-0 run to take the lead. Achonwa started the run with five points inside, muscling the Seattle defenders. Dupree hit a floater, then Indiana’s record setting rookie duo of Kelsey Mitchell and Vivians both drained 3-pointers to take an 18-14 lead and forcing a Seattle timeout.
“We started out kind of sluggish when they made their major run in the first quarter,” says Vivians. “The timeout was needed to calm down, relax, get back in and play our game.”
Kayla Alexander hit a 12-foot jumper in the final seconds as Indiana took a 27-22 lead into the first break.
Indiana led 33-32 early in the second before Seattle went on a 15-3 run. Sami Whitcomb hit a pair of 3-pointers off the bench, while Bird added another 3 of her own as Seattle shot the lights out to take their first double digit lead of the game, 47-36. The visitors took a 51-44 lead into the half.
Vivians made five 3-point field goals in the first half, just one shy of the WNBA rookie record for 3-pointers made in a single half (6).
“They were leaving me open and I was punishing them,” said Vivians. “I was kind of feeling it too.”
A back and forth third quarter followed the intermission, as neither team had a decisive run after a first half defined by them. Despite that, Seattle was still able to extend their lead to 16, 76-60, to start the fourth as Jordin Canada made a layup and Howard nailed a turnaround jumper right before the buzzer to cap things off, giving her a 10-point third quarter.
“We told the team that transition defense was going be the ball game,” said Chatman. “According to our numbers, over half of Seattle’s points were scored in transition. That’s not just early offense, it’s every phase of it. It’s also our inability to take care of the basketball. Although 14 turnovers don’t sound like a lot it’s above our average, they scored 14 points off them… You can’t do that with any team, let alone of the hottest teams in the league, one of the best offensive teams in the league.”
Erica Wheeler scored the layup and drew the foul, completing the 3-point play and cutting the deficit to 11 early in the fourth quarter. However, Indiana never drew closer in the final minutes as their first win streak of the season came to a halt.
Next up, Indiana travels to Phoenix for a Friday night matchup with the Mercury.