Indianapolis – The Indiana Fever struggled on offense again as they fell to the Phoenix Mercury 79-65 on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Diana Taurasi and Britney Griner combined for 39 of Phoenix’s 79 in the game.
Tamika Catchings was announced as the 2016 recipient of the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award prior to the game. It was Catchings’ second time receiving the award in her career.
“Our defense was really good and our offense really struggled,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said. “You can’t have 17 turnovers and shoot it 33 percent from the floor.”
Indiana fell to 0-9 this season when shooting under 40 percent. The Fever shot just 20-for-60 from the field on Tuesday night. They were a remarkable 95.7 percent from the free-throw line, going 22-for-23 on the evening, but they struggled to find a rhythm in their offense.
“Phoenix is long and made us work a little bit,” White added. “We took some tough shots early, and when those didn’t fall, we lost some confidence.”
Griner led all scorers with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds after Indiana held her in check the first time the two teams met. Taurasi added 19 points on 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Phoenix has now won three straight following the Olympic break.
Only Erlana Larkins and Lynetta Kizer reached double figures for the Fever. Larkins pitched in a solid 12 points and eight rebounds on an efficient 4-for-6 night from the floor. Kizer added 10 on 5-for-10 shooting as well.
“We’re just not taking the best shot or getting the best shot,” Larkins said. “We don’t have a flow on offense and it’s something we need to figure out to get us back on the right path.”
The Mercury jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead just 1:44 into the game. Indiana was held scoreless for nearly the first five minutes before two early fouls on Taurasi. Down 12-6 late in the period, Jeanette Pohlen knocked down a three to ignite the crowd with 2:07 left in the quarter. The shot sparked an 8-2 run by Indiana to get even with Phoenix by the end of the first.
Back-to-back threes from Taurasi early in the second lifted Phoenix to a six-point lead and they never looked back. The Mercury carried a 33-26 advantage into the half before continuing to hold Indiana at arm’s length through the third quarter.
Down by nine at the start of the fourth, the Fever came within five before faltering late in the period. Another Taurasi triple with 3:52 to play put the game out of reach.
Indiana fell to 12-14 while Phoenix improved to 13-14 in a crucial game for the playoff race. Just eight games remain for the Fever who are currently seventh in the eight-team playoff picture.
“New day, new team,” Larkins added. “New York is rough and tough. They’re going to come in here and throw some punches, and we’re going to have to take some and throw some back.”