WASHINGTON — Kristi Toliver scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting and four 3-pointers Sunday afternoon to pace the Washington Mystics to an 82-75 win over the Indiana Fever. Indiana lost for the second time to begin the 2018 WNBA season while the Mystics won their home and season opener at Capital One Arena.
Washington used a 15-6 stretch in the third quarter to lift its advantage to 15, 55-40, but couldn’t push the lead larger as the youthful Fever repeatedly drew within single digits.
Fever rookie Kelsey Mitchell’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter helped Indiana within 69-62, but Elena Delle Donne scored five points on consecutive possessions to push the lead back to 12. Natalie Achonwa scored four points on consecutive possessions to bring Indiana within 8, but Monique Currie’s 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 11. Consecutive baskets by Candice Dupree pulled the Fever within 6, 79-73, with 1:21 remaining, but Toliver’s 3 stymied another Fever run.
Achonwa had perhaps the best outing of her WNBA career, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-10 at the foul stripe to finish with career highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds and register her first double-double. Dupree, meanwhile, gathered 13 points and 10 boards to record the 65th double-double of her 13-year career.
Strong rebounding from Achonwa and Dupree helped the Fever, last in rebounding in the WNBA the past two seasons, to a 39-27 rebounding edge over the Mystics. It was Indiana’s largest rebound margin in two seasons.
“I wanted to be more aggressive today,” noted Achonwa who bested previous career highs of 19 points and nine rebounds. “I only shot 2-of-6 yesterday and I wanted to work off ball screens better. We needed to bounce back. We played with more effort and energy. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but we improved today.”
Fever coach Pokey Chatman echoed that sentiment. “I was pleased that it was more positive than yesterday. We struggled with turning the ball over in the second half, but I also have to give a little credit to Washington. They forced some of that. I was happy that we got to the line 25 times, that was another positive. I was pleased with our ability to bounce back. We got behind but fought back. I thought Washington did well in not letting us gain any momentum, but we made strides today.”
The Mystics, who shot 44 percent from 3-point range and forced 16 Fever turnovers, got 13 points from Delle Donne and 11 apiece from Currie and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.
Limited to five points in the Fever’s opener on Saturday, Mitchell, the No. 2 overall draft pick in last April’s draft, finished with 16 points to notch the first double-figure scoring effort of her pro career. She collected three 3-pointers in four attempts.
The Mystics led 38-30 at intermission in a back-and-forth opening half that featured five lead changes.
The young Indiana squad with an average age of 25 years old played four rookies for the second day in-a-row, marking the first time at least four Fever rookies played in the same game since Indiana’s first WNBA season in 2000. Indiana returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a pair of home games this week, Tuesday against Los Angeles and Thursday against the Mystics.
Indiana Fever at Washington Mystics
Natalie Achonwa scored career-highs in points (21) and rebounds (12) to record the first double-double of her career.
Rookie Kelsey Mitchell dropped 16 points in her second game for the Fever.
Veteran Candice Dupree notched her first double-double of the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds.