INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Fever suffered a third consecutive loss to start the season for the first time since 2015, falling to the Los Angeles Sparks by a score of 87-70.
The Sparks were led by 2016 WNBA MVP, center Nneka Ogwumike, who had 25 points, 17 of which came in the first half. She also had 10 rebounds and four assists.
The Sparks’ starting guard combination also had a productive offensive showing, Odyssey Sims had 17 points and Chelsea Gray had a near triple-double, with 12 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Riquna Williams chipped in 10 points off the bench for Los Angeles.
Indiana was led by rookie guard Kelsey Mitchell, who had 20 points, another career high after setting her previous mark of 16 against Washington on Sunday. She also had four assists.
“It’s picking my spots, picking my poison in regards to what they give me,” Kelsey Mitchell says, “kind of playing within the flow of the game, know what I can and can’t do, and just being confident.”
Guard Tiffany Mitchell had 14 points and five rebounds for the Fever. Indiana’s bench totaled 38 points, with five of the six reserves who saw action scored.
Los Angeles got off to a hot start in the first quarter, shooting a blistering 13-16 from the field, including 2-3 on 3-point field goals and 5-6 from the free throw line. Indiana trailed by 17 at the end of the first, as the trio of Ogwumike, Sims, and Gray combined for 22 of the Sparks’ 33 points.
“We can’t start the game the way we started it and expect to have success,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman. “We started to sub with some of our youth and energy, and started to see things happen.”
The Fever would go on to match the Sparks’ scoring output over the next three quarters but would be held to just 31 percent shooting in the second half.
“It says we have some fights,” says Tiffany Mitchell, “Our rookies and new players came in and gave great energy off the bench. We can take stuff from them as well and try and put that in the first quarter.”
Indiana fell behind by as many as 22 points, trailing 43-21 midway through the second quarter, before a 9-2 run that started with a Candice Dupree jumper and was sustained by a combination of jump shots and 3-point field goals from the duo of Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell brought Indiana as close as 12. The Sparks would go on to lead 50-36 at the half.
Indiana’s second quarter momentum carried over into the third, going on 11-2 run midway through the frame. The Fever’s hot start brought the team within 7, their closest margin since early in the first quarter. However, Los Angeles responded with a counterpunch of their own, a 9-2 run to end the quarter which extended the Sparks’ lead to 67-53 at the end of the third.
The Sparks wouldn’t look back in the fourth, never allowing Indiana to close within striking distance, as the Fever never trailed by fewer than 10 in the final frame. Indiana will return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday night for a matchup with the Mystics.