INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Fever blitzed Las Vegas from the opening tip, leading by as many as 26 points in an 86-71 win over the visiting Aces on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A Candice Dupree three-point play to start the game was the catalyst to an early 12-4 run to start the game by the Fever.
Liz Cambage scored nine of the Ace’s 15 first quarter points, but Tiffany Mitchell scored eight straight points for Indiana that propelled the home team to a 29-15 lead at the end of the first.
Indiana never looked back, leading by double digits for the final three quarters, holding Las Vegas to 24-for-71 (33.8%) shooting from the field for the game.
“We just wanted to be aggressive,” said Dupree. “Focus on the defensive end of the floor and I think the last few games we have done a good job of that, it has allowed us to get out and run. Everybody was aggressive from the start of the game.”
Teaira McCowan continued her strong play of late, pacing the Fever with 24 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocked shots, making her the first rookie in league history to post back-to-back 20 points and 15 rebounds. Dupree added 14 points, while Tiffany Mitchell added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Las Vegas was led by A’ja Wilson who collected 18 points and eight rebounds. Cambage added 15 points for the Aces. Kelsey Plum poured in 17 and Dearica Hamby chipped in 10 off the bench in the loss.
“It’s nice when you can carry some momentum over from a previous game,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman. “Then to play a totally different opponent with some size and keep the momentum up. But, to also marry it to some really good offense with 23 assists on 31 baskets… It was nice to be able to weather the storm to go on and win.”
The Fever continued the onslaught early in the second, as a Plum 3-pointer was the only resistance to an 11-3 Fever run that gave Indiana a 40-18 lead.
A pair of McCowan free throws capped off a 12-point, 11 rebound opening half for the Fever rookie as Indiana took a 20-point lead, 53-33, into the half time break.
“I’m a rookie and not too many rookies are the go-to players on their team,” said McCowan. “I feel good. It just means my teammates and the coaching staff trust me to get a bucket or a stop on defense.”
Wilson scored six straight points for the Aces, trying to will them back into the game, but McCowan had other ideas. The 6-foot, 7-inch center continued her strong night with a pair of three-point plays in the opening minutes of the third to keep Indiana ahead, 63-42.
Indiana’s lead grew as large as 26, 73-47, late in the third quarter as Kelsey Mitchell canned her fourth 3-pointer of the game. The Fever led 74-54 at the end of the third.
Kelsey Mitchell finished with 16 points off the bench for Indiana, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“As a team, this was our best game of the year,” said Mitchell, the second-year guard. “We played for 40 minutes and a lot of people don’t know how far that goes. We know what it’s like to lose – to have two good quarters and then two bad ones – so for us to string together the whole 40 minutes shows where we are at as a group.”
The Fever maintained their lead throughout the final quarter, never allowing the Aces within striking distance.
Coupled with a Phoenix win over New York, Indiana now trails Phoenix by 3 1/2 games, meaning Indiana will need to win each of its last four games while needing Phoenix to lose all of its final games in order for the Fever to make the playoffs.
The Fever look to extend their win streak to three games and continue their hunt for a playoff spot in a meeting with Los Angeles on Thursday.