Los Angeles – The Indiana Fever fell to the Los Angeles Sparks 88-81 in L.A. on Sunday night despite a career night from Erica Wheeler. It was Tamika Catchings’ final game at STAPLES Center barring a playoff matchup with Los Angeles.
“We had a lot of mental breakdowns on defense, and L.A. didn’t let us get anything clean on the offensive end,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said. “[The Sparks] have so much length, they got into our passing lanes and didn’t let us get into any rhythm. I was proud of how hard we worked, proud of how we fought. But in this league, you can’t have breakdowns.”
Indiana won the turnover battle with just eight compared to nine for L.A., but the Sparks scored 12 fast break points while Indiana tallied just one point from transition. The Fever shot 47 percent in the game but Los Angeles scorched the nets at a 57.4 percent clip; the highest shooting percentage by a Fever opponent this season.
Erica Wheeler was dynamic for Indiana as the speedy point guard netted a career-high 20 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Shenise Johnson added 19 points on 3-for-8 from the 3-point line while Catchings chipped in 16 points on 3-for-7 from deep. Johnson has now scored in double figures in six of the last seven games.
Nneka Ogwumike was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go along with eight assists and six rebounds. Candace Parkers and Kristi Tolliver added 19 points and 18 points, respectively. The Sparks’ three leading scorers shot a combined 19-for-33 on the night.
Indiana played the first seven minutes tight before Ogwumike scored five quick points to give L.A. a six-point cushion at the three-minute mark. That lead was extended to double digits by quarter’s end with a 31-19 Sparks advantage.
The Indiana defense forced two shot clock violations early in the second period. The Fever hung within 10 points for much of the quarter before a solid finish to the half cut the lead to 46-41.
With a 60-50 lead midway through the third quarter, the Sparks reeled off an 11-2 run to nearly double the lead by quarter’s end. L.A. shot 9-for-11 in the third and doubled-up Indiana in the period, 26-13.
The Fever trailed by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter, but much like the previous trip to L.A.–when Indiana scored 39 fourth-quarter points and nearly did the unthinkable–they didn’t go quietly.
Catchings trimmed the lead to seven on a put-back with under two minutes to play. Triples from Catchings, Wheeler and Johnson in the final minute brought the game as close as six before the final horn. Indiana outscored L.A. 27-16 in the final stanza.
Indiana has now lost three of its last four and falls to 13-15. Los Angeles won its third straight game and improved to 24-5 and a share of first place with Minnesota in the playoff race.