The Indiana Fever held off the Atlanta Dream 94-85 on Friday night (May 20) inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The win was the second-straight victory for the Fever who improved to 2-1 on the season while dropping the Dream to 1-1.
Depth and balance continued for the Fever on Friday night. For the second-straight game, seven players scored in double figures tying the franchise record that was set on Wednesday night (May 18).
“We were able to do it again because we got seven players in double figures,” said Indiana head coach Stephanie White. “That’s really tough to scout when you have so much balance and unselfishness.”
That balance and depth was tested early on Friday night. Erlana Larkins suffered a right knee injury with just over 7:30 to play in the first quarter. Second-year forward Natalie Achonwa came in off the bench and tallied 10 points in Larkins’ absence. Lynetta Kizer helped bandage the loss in the post with 12 points and four rebounds in just 13 minutes of action. Kizer was also the seventh Fever player to reach double figures with a pair of free throws late in the fourth.
The Dream held a 10-3 lead shortly after Larkins’ exit but a 3-pointer from Tamika Catchings stopped the bleeding. A flurry of fast break layups from rookie guard Tiffany Mitchell gave the Fever their first lead (15-14) with 3:44 left in the first quarter. Then Achonwa and Kizer took over in the paint, extending the lead to 27-21 at the end of the first quarter.
The lead ballooned to 15 (52-37) by halftime thanks to a 12-2 run at the end of the second quarter.
Atlanta cut the lead to nine in the third but Devereaux Peters scored eight of the last 10 Fever points to close the quarter and replenish the lead back to 14 (78-64). Once again the Dream nearly turned to a nightmare in the fourth, cutting the lead to five in the final minutes before Indiana compiled a set of defensive stops to seal the win, 94-85.
“They’re great at attacking the rim,” White said of the fourth quarter scare. “They put pressure on you defensively and we fouled. They were knocking down free throws with no time running off the clock. You got to give Atlanta credit for continuing to battle.”
Friday’s game also included an intriguing matchup at the point guard position. Indiana signed former Dream guard Erica Wheeler on Feb. 26 before dealing Layshia Clarendon to Atlanta for a second-round pick earlier this month. Clarendon got the better performance on Friday as she outscored Wheeler 19-2 on 7-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from the charity stripe.
Atlanta guard Tiffany Hayes tied Clarendon with a game-high 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Angel McCoughtry netted 15 points for Atlanta before fouling out with 4:11 left in the game.
Catchings led Indiana with 14 points while fellow starters Marissa Coleman and Shenise Johnson added 12 apiece. Johnson also led Indiana on the glass with seven rebounds.
The Fever bench devastated Atlanta with 54 points, including four double-digit scorers in Mitchell, Achonwa, Peters and Kizer. Rookie Brene Moseley only scored two points but dished six assists in just 13 minutes played.
Friday’s game was the third of a three-game home stand for the Fever this month. The squad plays at Minnesota (May 27) and Atlanta (May 29) before returning to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday, June 1 for a 7:00 p.m. meeting with Seattle.