The Indiana Fever rallied in the second half to beat the defending WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks 93-90 Wednesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Marissa Coleman hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 38.1 seconds remaining, and Erlana Larkins hit a free throw with 5.4 seconds left to give the Fever a three-point lead. Candace Parker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Coleman led Indiana in scoring with 19 points and tied a career high with five 3-pointers, Candice Dupree had 18 and eight rebounds, and Erica Wheeler added season-highs for scoring and rebounding with 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.
All five starters for Los Angeles scored in double figures, led by Nneka Ogwumike with 24 points. Parker scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double. She also added six assists.
Los Angeles led the entire first half, but the Fever never trailed by more than five points until 1:22 was left in the second quarter. The Sparks took a 55-41 lead into halftime after closing the first half on an 11-1 run.
“They just took the air out of us the last three minutes of the second quarter,” coach Pokey Chatman said. “I was happy halftime came, but when I went to the locker room, we make them put two positive things, two negative things on the board, they were spot on. That’s when you know a team is locked in.”
The Fever answered in the second half on a 10-0 run to close the gap.
“It started right out of halftime,” Chatman said. “That’s hard to do when you let a team go into the halftime with some momentum, so I’m proud of the ladies for that.”
The team got a huge boost from its subs, as the Fever bench outscored Los Angeles’s 31-4. The Fever also had their second-best performance from deep in franchise history, shooting 68.8 percent on 3-pointers, making 11-of-16.
The defense also played better in the second half, giving up just 35 points compared to the 55 Los Angeles scored in the first half. Wheeler said the team didn’t make any huge changes, but just doubled down on their original plan.
“Coach came in and told us let’s just stick to the schemes,” Wheeler said. “We’re still in the game. Yeah they made a run, so let’s make our run.”
Indiana took its first lead of the game 66-65 on a pair of free throws from Tiffany Mitchell with 36.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, a period where the Fever outscored the Sparks 27-10. The Sparks threatened in the fourth but never retook a lead or tied
the game. They closed the gap to one point three times, including a Parker 3-pointer that made it 89-88.
The Sparks got the ball back after a Briann January miss but were forced into a shot-clock violation. January then found Coleman, who had scored Indiana’s previous bucket on another 3-pointer, on the ensuing possession for what ended up being the game-winner.
“It wasn’t an exact play drawn up to find her, but it was out of a set, and then we read out of it,” January said. “We put the post player under some duress and I drove at her and then the defense was staring at me. When I get their eyes, then I know I can pick
them apart, and I found Marissa up top and she knocked it down.”
January said she knew Coleman would be at the top of the arc, and Coleman said her experience with January helped her make the play.
“I had a feeling she would find me,” Coleman said. “She’s a great player, a great point guard and she always finds us in great positions.”