After building an early 29-point lead, the Indiana Fever were able to outlast a late run by the Atlanta Dream to secure the victory.
After being down by as many as 29 points early in the game, Dream forward Roneeka Hodges helped Atlanta whittle the lead down to seven, scoring all nine of her points in the fourth quarter. But the effort came much too late, with the Dream falling 90-79, losing their second game in a row.
Fever head coach Stephanie White wanted to come out strong after Indiana was routed at home against the Sky on Sunday and planned to rely heavily on Tamika Catchings, playing her first game after her one-game suspension for making contact with an official.
But Catchings was slow to shake off the rust, starting the game with three missed shots and a turnover; she wouldn’t score her first point until a pair of free throws in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Thankfully for Indiana, other players were ready to share the offensive load. Marissa Coleman and Maggie Lucas scored a combined 18 points in the second quarter, providing more output than the entire Atlanta Dream squad during the same period. A barrage of three-pointers helped Indiana establish the 14-point lead that they would take into the locker room at halftime.
Dream coach Michael Cooper wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort in the opening stages.
“Lousy game by us the way we started…you can’t dig yourself a 20-, 25-foot hole and try to come out of it,” he said after the game.
During the third, the Fever turned up the aggressiveness. Natalie Achonwa helped spark the early run with six straight Indiana points, and helped stretch the margin to 29 mid-way through the quarter.
But the Dream came roaring back in the fourth quarter. Erika de Souza’s steal on one end led to her own basket at the other, a layup that started a 12-0 run for Atlanta to bring them within ten for the first time since the second quarter.
But with only four minutes to go in the fourth, Indiana found their shooting tough again, and the lead never got smaller than 7. Coleman said of Atlanta’s scoring stretch, “We knew they’re going to make a run…We just wanted to stay with our defensive principles and stick together and we knew we could get the win.”
Dream forward Sancho Lyttle finished with a season-high 19 points on an efficient 8-11 shooting, clearly winning the individual matchup against Catchings. But foul trouble limited Atlanta’s star Angel McCoughtry from ever developing a rhythm, and the Fever took advantage.
Both teams are now 2-4, tied for last in the Eastern conference. The Fever are still short-handed; unavailable for today’s contest were Erlana Larkins, Natasha Howard, and Shavonte Zellous, who aggravated her back in Sunday’s game against Chicago.
Atlanta will try to avoid a three game losing streak in their own game against Chicago on Friday.