INDIANAPOLIS — The thunder and lightning frontcourt duo of Natasha Howard and Breanna Stewart proved to be too much for Indiana, as the duo combined to score 25 third quarter points and 42 overall in the Storm’s 92-72 victory over the Fever Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Despite trailing much of the game, Indiana showed no signs of quit in the fourth, as they cut an 18-point deficit to begin the quarter to single digits in the waning moments.
Kelsey Mitchell pushed the ball up the court, hitting the contested layup and drawing the foul with just minutes remain on the clock. She hit the free throw to finish the 3-point play and cut the Seattle lead to 80-72, the closest the game had been since the first quarter.
Sue Bird hit a 3-pointer on the next possession that buried Indiana, as the Storm exploded over the final two minutes by scoring 12 straight to secure the victory on the road.
“It was an eight-point game with two minutes left. We didn’t finish, we fizzled and that’s extremely disappointing in terms of where we are and what we need to do,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman. “I’m not talking about moral victories, I’m just talking about being responsible and finishing things at a higher level and we didn’t. You can’t do that against any team in this league, let alone the team that’s in first.”
Seattle was led by Stewart, who had her sixth double-double of the season, scoring 26 points on 10-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and five assists. Howard provided 16 points and nine rebounds of her own in the frontcourt’s dominant showing.
Jewell Loyd added 13 points for the Storm, all of which came in the first quarter. Guard Sue Bird, the recently crowned WNBA record holder for games played, had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists in the road win.
Seattle shot 36-of-71 (50.7 percent) from the field compared to the Fever, who shot 27-of-78 (34.6 percent) from the field. It is the ninth game this season Seattle has shot 50 percent or better.
Kelsey Mitchell led the charge for the Fever, tying her season high by scoring 26 points while adding five rebounds and three assists off the bench. Many of those 26 points came in bursts when Indiana faced its greatest deficits of the game, earning the praise of Fever head coach Pokey Chatman.
“It speaks volumes to her gift,” said Chatman. “That’s the part of her game that will always get the most attention. I’ve been pleased with the way she has shored up her assists as well. She’s beginning to see the game and read it. It’s slowing down in her mind, even though it’s a little bit faster. When you don’t have a lot of success in the win column, it’s tough to keep people up, so that’s a testament to her character and continuing to work.”
Forward Candice Dupree secured a double-double for Indiana with 14 and 12 rebounds. Guard Cappie Pondexter added 10 points in the loss.
Seattle burst into the game with a quick 8-0 lead, as Bird drained a 3, Stewart hit a pull up from midrange, and Loyd buried a 3-pointer to draw an early timeout for Indiana. The Fever’s veterans, Pondexter and Dupree, responded by scoring six straight and cutting the deficit to 8-6.
The Storm lead grew to as many as 12 in the first quarter, 29-17, as Loyd made her third 3-point field goal as part of a 13-point opening quarter for the fourth-year guard out of Notre Dame. Kelsey Mitchell and Erica Wheeler both hit a pair of free throws after Loyd’s barrage as the Fever trailed 29-21 at the end of one.
The second quarter started in a similar fashion to the first, as Seattle again scored the quarter’s first eight points, including a quick five-point outburst by Storm reserve guard Jordin Canada. A Stephanie Mavunga put back basket was the only offense Indiana could create during a 14-2 Storm run that saw them take a 20-point lead, 43-23, their largest of the first half.
Kelsey Mitchell wouldn’t let the deficit keep the Fever down, however, as the rookie fueled Indiana’s 11-3 run to end the half by scoring six straight points by drawing fouls by attacking Seattle’s interior defense and canning a jumper just inside the arc.
Despite the run, Indiana still trailed 46-34 at the half time break.
The third started favorably for Indiana, as the Fever prevented another big Storm run to begin the quarter. Pondexter and Kelsey Mitchell both made a layup and 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half.
Stewart and Howard responded for Seattle, as the frontcourt duo scored all 25 of Seattle’s third quarter points. Stewart used her all around game, hitting three 3-pointers in the quarter as well as a variety of midrange jumpers and fadeaways in the post to accumulate her 16 third quarter points.
Howard’s points all came inside, as the 6-foot, 2-inch forward used her strength to get position against the Indiana defense for a productive nine-point quarter on 4-4 shooting.
The Fever trailed by as many as 21 in the quarter, with a score of 71-50. The quarter ended with a tally of 71-53, as Seattle continued to put their foot on the accelerator.
Despite the fourth quarter push, the 18-point deficit to begin the fourth proved to be too much to overcome as Indiana fell to the WNBA leading Storm.
“I think we had them for a while there,” said Kelsey Mitchell. “They got in their second gear, we got in our second gear, but they made an extra push.”
The Fever head into the WNBA All-Star break with their next matchup coming on Thursday, August 2nd against Dallas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana Fever vs. Seattle Storm
Kelsey Mitchell matched her season-high with 26 points vs. the Storm. The rookie guard also dished out three assists and pulled down five boards as the Fever fell to the Storm.
Candice Dupree provided a cool 14 points, to go along with 12 rebounds as the Fever took on the Storm on Tuesday night.
Veteran guard Cappie Pondexter once again provided a scoring punch for the Fever, dropping in 10 points vs. the Storm.
Former head coach of the Indiana Fever and Seattle Storm, Lin Dunn spoke with FeverBasketball.com about tonight’s matchup and what it was like to coach against Victoria Vivians in college.
After the Fever’s loss to the Storm, head coach Pokey Chatman spoke about Kelsey Mitchell’s performance, Cappie Pondexter’s leadership, and the team’s need to finish out games.
Kelsey Mitchell talked about learning under veteran Cappie Pondexter and how she has adjusted to the WNBA.
Cappie Pondexter talked about leading by example and the growth she has seen in Kelsey Mitchell this season.
Candice Dupree spoke after the game about dealing with Seattle’s length tonight and the development of the Fever this season.