With a record of 2-4, the Indiana Fever are looking to jump-start their 2017 campaign and are hoping an upcoming three-game homestand, the team’s longest such stretch of the regular season, will do the trick.
“It’s something that’s been on our minds,” Fever forward Marissa Coleman said of the looming set of games.
The first of the three contests is against the Dallas Wings. After, the Fever host the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm. The team is ready for a stint at home, as Indiana is 2-0 in its own building, and it’s where the offense has fired on all cylinders.
In their three road games, the Fever have averaged just 69.0 points per game, while shooting 40.0 percent from the floor and 25 percent from the 3-point line. Out of the 12 WNBA teams, those numbers rank ninth, ninth and tied for eighth.
When the team has played on its home floor, those same statistics have been better by a wide margin. In Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana is scoring 87.0 points per game, making 48.4 percent of its attempts and 48.3 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, good for fourth, third and first in the league.
So why such a big difference?
“Maybe the rims are a little bigger at home,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman joked Friday after practice. “I think it goes back to comfort, energy from the crowd, just the whole aura of a home game. When you arrive, your same routine, you can control the elements.”
And while the Fever have few concerns when it comes to their offense, the defense is a completely different story.
Indiana ranks last in the WNBA in points allowed per game (87.3), last in opponent field goal percentage (51.6), second to last in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (39.6) and last in defensive rating (112.7).
“We’re just making a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes,” Fever guard Shenise Johnson said. “We’re doing it right in practice. The energy is there. The communication is there, and then in the games, there’s some disconnect. I’m not sure what it is, but we’re trying to figure it out.”
The team knows in order to keep up its winning ways at home, the defense needs to catch up to the offense. Chatman points to one specific area when asked what the Fever have to be better at defensively.
“Our transition defense has to be there,” Chatman said. “We’ll have people back, but we’re not ready, and we’re not in our stance, and we’re not in position. So now, they’re playing downhill. They have momentum. We’re out of position. We foul. So it’s the snowball effect of the transition defense.”
The players see this string of games not only as a chance to move up the standings, but as an opportunity to build habits, especially on the defensive end, and camaraderie that they’ll carry with them the rest of the season.
“More so than that [defending homecourt], it’s just important for us to get some confidence going forward,” Coleman said. “Obviously coming off those two bad road losses, we just want to get some confidence and get some more chemistry.”
“I think this homestand will be really important for us,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll have a chance to get our chemistry, get the crowd behind us, get the fans behind us and just get that mojo back.”
Finally, considering how they’re currently playing on the road, for the time being, every home game is even more important than usual, making this upcoming set all the more crucial.
“We know,” Johnson said when asked about the importance of these next three games. “We just gotta make sure we focus on ourselves, make sure we’re giving that energy and effort every night.”