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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fever struggle in second half, take fifth-straight loss

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The Fever dropped their fifth consecutive game in a 97-83 loss to the New York Liberty on Friday. Indiana is now 3-12 on the season.

The Fever outplayed the Liberty for 20 minutes as they led 43-38 at halftime. New York shot 2-of-11 on 3-pointers and committed eight turnovers in the half. Indiana was able to get to the free-throw line 13 times, making 11.

But the Liberty began the third quarter on an 11-3 run and did not look back. The Liberty outscored the Fever 34-20 in the third quarter, taking a 72-63 lead into the fourth. Indiana ultimately couldn’t break through in the fourth, as New York won its fourth game in five outings.

“I thought we just didn’t come out with a sense of urgency,” Fever interim head coach Carlos Knox said. “I think it’s a lack of focus sometimes.”

The Fever have continued to struggle in the first period out of halftime. Indiana has been outscored in all five third quarters during this losing streak.

“We’ve got to come out and punch people first and not let them punch us,” Fever forward Victoria Vivians said. “We have to adjust quicker than when we did.”

Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell led the team with 23 points, shooting 8-for-17 from the field. This was Mitchell’s ninth game with 20 or more points this season, leading the WNBA.

“I can’t say it’s a good thing but I do give credit to my craft, my trainers, my coaches,” a deflated Mitchell said after the game. “You do all of this and you still lose.”

Mitchell leads the WNBA in total minutes played, and she logged 35 minutes while playing the entire second half of Friday night’s game.

Knox doesn’t seem too concerned with Mitchell’s workload, saying, “She’s very very in tune with herself and her body.” Knox believes the team will “do a better job of getting her out [of games]” going forward.

Mitchell said she usually doesn’t feel fatigued until after the game and that she uses Normatec equipment and eps and salts. Mitchell also said she “lives and dies by the ice tub” to keep her fresh for games.

Natasha Howard—who began her career with the Fever—had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Liberty. It was Howard’s highest-scoring game of the season.

“Natasha’s a very good veteran and she understands angles,” Knox said.

The Liberty’s ball movement was impressive all night, as 31 of their 38 field goals were assisted. That ball movement helped New York create open jumpers as the Liberty made 13 of their 28 3-point attempts.

“They were able to move the ball against a young group,” Knox said. “I think our rotations need to be a lot tighter, a lot smoother.”

Vivians said the Liberty figured out the Fever’s double teams, leading to higher quality looks.

On the other side, the Fever struggled to knock down 3s. Indiana was just 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. In the last four games, the Fever have shot 22-for-84 (26.2 percent) on 3s.

“I feel like the shots just aren’t going in,” Vivians said. “I’ve just got to knock down my shots.”

Knox called the squad’s 3-point woes “a mixture of both” poor looks and bad luck. “We’ve put in some new things, some things that were not necessarily picked up quickly, so we’re kind of stagnant on the offensive end.”

After getting a victory in Knox’s first game as head coach, Indiana has lost five straight. The Fever will head back on the road to face the Minnesota Lynx at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Zion Brown is a sports reporter for NextGen Sports, a collaboration with The Recorder Media Group.

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