INDIANAPOLIS — Phoenix used a 29-point second quarter to blow past Indiana for a 95-77 win on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Diana Taurasi scored 13 of her 25 points in the second, doing a majority of her scoring at the free throw line. In total, Phoenix would shoot 15-15 from the charity stripe in the quarter as they saw their lead increase from just one to as many as 18.
“Obviously Diana got off to a good start,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman. “I thought that the team got off to a good start because we fouled a lot and put them on the free throw line… A team that’s high powered, a team that has a big in the middle, a team that has some high scoring people, that just aids in our demise.”
Taurasi’s 25 points were a game high for Phoenix. Center Brittney Griner contributed 20 points on 8-12 shooting and blocked two shots. Guard Yvonne Turner had a near triple-double, with seven points, seven assists, and eight rebounds. Forward DeWanna Bonner added 15 points, 10 of which came in the first, as well as nine rebounds in the win. Overall, Phoenix shot 32-62 from the field and 21-21 from the free throw line.
Indiana was paced by rookie Kelsey Mitchell, who poured in 19 points on 5-10 from beyond the arc to lead Indiana. Fellow rookie Victoria Vivians contributed 10 points of her own. Center Kayla Alexander and guard Erica Wheeler each chipped in 10 points off the bench for the Fever.
The first quarter began at a blistering pace for both teams, as shots fell from all over the court for the duration of the quarter. Phoenix went to its size advantage early as Griner, Sancho Lyttle, and Bonner all got looks inside that resulted in scores for the Mercury.
Indiana was able to match the frontcourt scoring of Phoenix with a 3-point barrage, as Wheeler and Vivians both drained shot from beyond the arc. Kelsey Mitchell had two 3-pointers of her own that started and capped off an 11-5 run to end the quarter by Indiana, bringing the game back within a single score. The Fever trailed 27-26 after the first.
Phoenix picked up the aggression on both ends of the floor in the second quarter, as they outscored Indiana 29-13. Defensive lapses by Indiana early in the quarter led to Phoenix shooting in the penalty for the final seven minutes of the first half.
“When they’re shooting free throws, they get to stop and get their defense set,” says Chatman. “It takes away away some of those transition opportunities and shrinks the court, so it’s a trifecta of bad things.”
Indiana shot just 4-17 from the field in the second, as they went into the second half trailing 56-39.
“I thought it was our rhythm and the movement of the ball. It was stagnant,” says Vivians. “Once we’re stagnant, we’ll take bad shots and they’ll get easy layups off those shots.”
The Mercury continued their offensive aggression into the second half, as Phoenix scored the first seven points of the third quarter, five of which were poured in by Bonner.
Kelsey Mitchell knows her team can’t afford to lose in those key moments of the game.
“It’s all about pivotal moments, as Coach Pokey says. It’s crucial that we kind of like stick with it throughout the course of the game and not have these downward little spirals,” she said. “Same song and dance. Gotta pick it up where we can.”
Phoenix went on to lead by a game high 32-points in the quarter and ended the third with a 78-54 advantage.
Indiana continued to fight late into the game, winning the fourth quarter 23-17, but the deficit was too large to get within a striking distance of the lead.
Indiana will host Atlanta in a Sunday evening matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana Fever vs. Phoenix Mercury
Kelsey Mitchell caught fire from deep vs. the Mercury on Friday night. The rookie guard connected on five shots from beyond the arc and finished the game with 19 points.
Wheeler provided a spark once again for the Fever, on Friday night, dropping in 10 points against the Mercury.
Kayla Alexander came off the bench to provide a strong presence in the paint for the Fever as they took on the Mercury.
Victoria Vivians had a solid night vs. the Mercury. The rookie guard dropped in 10 points and dished out four assists.
Coach Pokey Chatman