PHOENIX — Led by 20 points and seven assists from Erica Wheeler and 17 points from Candice Dupree, the Indiana Fever (8-12) were able to overcome a 34-point outburst from the Phoenix Mercury’s (11-9) Diana Taurasi and end their five-game losing streak with an 84-77 win at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“We talked to them about bringing the same energy that we brought at LA,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said. “We stayed connected to how we were attacking. We just really stayed connected to the message regardless of who was on the court.”
The contest was a back-and-forth affair deep into the fourth quarter, and the final period is where Wheeler really made her mark, racking up eight points and two assists in the fourth. One of those assists went to Erlana Larkins, who put Indiana up five, 77-72, with 3:30 left to play.
After Phoenix made a 3-pointer on its next possession to cut the lead to two, a Wheeler layup put Indiana back up four with 2:14 left.
But it was Briann January who provided the Fever with a crucial bucket in the final minute. Clinging to a 79-77 lead, January drilled a midrange jumper to extend Indiana’s advantage to four with 48.5 seconds to play. From there, Indiana’s defense stopped Phoenix on three straight possessions and iced the game at the free throw-line to seal the victory.
“I think the best word was that for everyone that went in the game were efficient,” Chatman said. “I saw the same energy with fewer mental lapses that were in LA. I saw that I didn’t have to correct the same thing over-and-over. They were correcting themselves. They were making adjustments.”
With All-Star center Brittney Griner sitting out due to injury, the Mercury were going to need a big effort from Taurasi, and from the get-go, she showed she was ready to shoulder the load. The home team jumped out to a 15-8 lead midway through the first quarter behind 11 points from Taurasi. Indiana answered back during the final five minutes of the period, outscoring the Mercury 13-3 to take a 21-18 lead into the second quarter.
Indiana struck first in the second, extending their lead to eight with 8:21 to go until halftime. Phoenix would chip away throughout the rest of the quarter, eventually tying the contest at 34 with 2:02 remaining in the second.
A Jennifer Hamson three-point play gave the Fever a 37-34 advantage at the 1:37 mark, but Phoenix outscored Indiana 5-1 to end the quarter, taking a lead 39-38 into halftime.
The game remained close in the third, as the teams stayed essentially within a possession of one another. Bench play defined the period for Indiana. Led by six third quarter points from Hamson, Indiana entered the fourth with a 65-63 lead.
In addition to Wheeler and Dupree, January finished with seven points, seven assists and seven rebounds, tying her career high. Off the bench, Hamson, who was recently signed to a second 7-day contract contributed nine points (the first points of her Fever career) and five rebounds. Tiffany Mitchell added nine points.
For Phoenix, Taurasi’s game high 34 points came on 9-of-20 shooting, including six 3-pointers. She shot 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. Monique Currie scored 12 points off the bench.
The Fever’s road trip continues tomorrow night in San Antonio, as they take on the Stars at 8:00 PM ET. It’s the team’s final game before the All-Star break and you can watch the action live on Twitter.