In a game that seemed all but lost, Indiana was able to make a valiant effort late to push the undefeated Minnesota Lynx to a close finish. The Fever were gifted with a week off before heading into their Friday night WNBA Finals rematch against the Minnesota Lynx. But even with that break, Indiana got off to an abysmal start on both ends of the floor in the opening period. A rusty Fever team managed only six total points in the first quarter on 12 percent shooting from the field. The defending champion Lynx came out as if Friday’s contest was continuation of last year’s Finals series, shooting 72 percent in the first quarter to take a 23-point advantage into the second.
The Fever showed signs of life in the second period, scoring the quarter’s first seven points to cut into the Minnesota lead, but the momentum was short lived as the Lynx responded immediately and regained full control of the game. The second quarter was a wash and Minnesota finished the second quarter with a 50-27 lead. Minnesota closed out both the first and second quarter with buzzer-beating three-point shots.
The second half provided Indiana with some play to hang their hat on. The league’s top scoring team returned to form with 26 third quarter points to trim the deficit to 16 by the end of the period. Erica Wheeler led the way in the third with 11 points. The Fever took a hit when Maggie Lucas left the game with a knee contusion. Lucas went down while trying to make a play to close out the third quarter. She was Indiana’s leading scorer at the time with 12 points.
Coach White commented on Lucas after the game. “She’s bigger, stronger and more confident this year. She game us a bigger presence in the backcourt, and gave us a shot of energy early in the second half. She gave us a spark. She played a big part in helping us get back in the game.”
Minnesota would rest their stars for much of the third and fourth quarters, giving an opening for the Fever to close to within seven with 2:02 remaining in the contest. The Fever defense turned up the pressure, forcing turnovers that led to easy buckets on the opposite end. Tiffany Mitchell was the key playmaker in the fourth on her way to a team-high 16 points. The Fever had possession with seconds remaining and the Minnesota lead down to just three points. The Lynx responded by intentionally fouling to deprive Indiana of an opportunity to tie the game. Minnesota ultimately held off the Fever for the narrow win, 74-71.
After the game, Mitchell Stated “Steph challenged us at halftime. She challenged us to either lay down or show that we had some heart. We played with more energy, and after Maggie [Lucas] went out, I guess we got some more motivation.”
Former Fever big, Natasha Howard, scored a season-high 11 points for Minnesota playing increased minutes off of the bench. Last year’s Finals MVP, Sylvia Fowles, was held scoreless with seven shot attempts on the night. The WNBA’s leading scorer, Maya Moore, had a light night with nine points and eight assists.
The Fever were without starting guard Shenise Johnson after she suffered a blow to the head earlier in the week and had to sit out due to concussion protocol. Natalie Achonwa saw a return to action in the second half, after receiving no playing time in the team’s last game. Achonwa contributed key scores, including a layup to bring the Fever to within three points late.
The Indiana Fever will look to bounce back from their loss in Minnesota when they head to Atlanta to take on the Dream for the second time this season on Sunday, May 29.