Washington D.C. – The Indiana Fever clinched its 12th consecutive playoff berth with an 80-73 victory over the Washington Mystics on Sunday afternoon, continuing its WNBA record for consecutive playoff appearances. Register for Playoffs >>
“Thankfully, we changed our defensive energy midway through the third quarter,” Fever Head Coach Stephanie White said. “That’s what we needed. We got some stops, forced some turnovers and made things tougher on them.”
Indiana won its third-straight game by using another dominating performance from the backcourt duo of Erica Wheeler and Briann January. They also shot 50 percent from the field in a game that saw nine ties and nine lead changes.
Wheeler netted 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting alongside five rebounds and three assists. January added 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting with four assists. Lynetta Kizer reached double figures for the fourth consecutive game as she contributed 17 points and five boards on an 8-for-13 shooting night as well.
Emma Meesseman gave Washington a game-high 19 points while Tayler Hill added 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.
Meesseman gave Washington a slight first quarter edge, 28-26, after pouring in 13 points in the opening period. Both teams shot above 50 percent in the first quarter.
Indiana held Meesseman in check in the second quarter, but two 3-pointers from Tayler Hill helped the Mystics carry a five-point lead into the half. January led the Fever with eight points and three assists at the break.
Hill buried two more triples early in the third quarter to extend the lead for Washington. After a pair of Kizer buckets, a steal by Coleman and a behind-the-back pass to January gave Indiana a 56-55 lead. Tiffany Mitchell stole a pass on the ensuing possession for an easy layup and a 58-55 lead to cap a 10-0 run.
“We picked up our energy and our activity when we needed to in the second half,” January said. “We increased our defensive intensity and that’s what it’s all about for us. We got some steals and some easy buckets and that pushed us over the hump.”
With a 63-59 advantage to start the fourth, the Fever were held scoreless for nearly three minutes. In an even game at 69-all, a Wheeler 3-pointer broke the tie with 2:10 to play.
Two late stops and two trips to the free-throw line for Wheeler sealed the game for Indiana.
The Fever officially clinched a playoff spot with Sunday’s win as they improved to 16-15. Washington fell to 12-19. The WNBA record for 12 consecutive playoff appearances marks the third-longest active streak in American professional sports. It was also the ninth road win of the season, marking a franchise record for road wins in a season.
“It’s about toughness and pride,” White added. “That’s what we needed, and now we need to keep playing those principles as we play for seeding.”
Indiana will be back in action on Tuesday night against Connecticut at 7 p.m.