Professional Basketball

Fever End Lynx Winning Streak


MINNEAPOLIS – The Indiana Fever snapped the Minnesota Lynx seven-game winning streak and their own six-game skid, by routing the defending champions 71-59 in front of an announced crowd of 8,632 at Target Center Tuesday night.

Indiana Fever center Natalie Achonwa scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds in Tuesday night’s win over the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sports Page Magazine

The Fever got things going from the start when forward Natalie Achonwa hit a 14-foot jump shot just 23 seconds into the game. Indiana began the game on an 8-2 run before the Lynx gained some momentum and cut what at one time was an 11 point deficit down to two points. When first quarter ended, the Fever held a 21-19 lead.

Minnesota took a one-point lead when guard Alexis Jones hit a three-pointer with 8:55 left in the second quarter but it was short lived. Fifteen seconds later, forward Temi Fagbenle fouled Fever guard Tiffany Mitchell, who hit two free throws to put her team back up by one.

The Fever maintained the lead for the rest of the half, taking a 34-32 lead into the locker room. It was only the first time that Indiana led at halftime all season.

Minnesota got the ball rolling in the third quarter when guard Seimone Augustus nailed a 12-foot jumper fifteen seconds into the frame, and then took the lead when Augustus rebounded a three-point attempt by Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell and dished to teammate Maya Moore for a 19-foot pullup jumper.

Neither team found separation until late in the quarter when Indiana went on an 8-0 run, which was promptly answered by a 7-2 run by the Lynx to finish the quarter. Indiana led 49-46.

The Lynx tied the game 51-51 when Fagbenle hit a free throw with 8:05 remaining in the contest. It would be the closest the home team would get as the visiting Fever closed out with a 20-8 run to end the game.

Indiana Fever forward Candice Dupree shoots over the outstretched arms of Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen during Tuesday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sports Page Magazine

It was the Fever’s second win of the season and the first road win since taking an 84-77 victory over the Phoenix Mercury at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix on July 19, 2017. Since that game, the Fever have only won three games, an August 6, 2017 an 84-82 home win against the Minnesota Lynx; a 96-64 home victory on June 16, 2018 over the Atlanta Dream, and Tuesday’s road win against the Lynx.

“We challenged the team to make sure we got the same looks in the second half and continue to get stops and we did that. It was one of those things that we’ve been harping on our defense in the last few games, and to come out and do that against a well-oiled machine, like Minnesota, that should give them some confidence as we move forward,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman.

Indiana shot 39.1 percent from the field while holding the Lynx to 59 points. It was Minnesota’s lowest point total since June 13, 2013 when they lost 87-59 to the Los Angeles Sparks in Los

Angeles. It was also the lowest point total in a home game since at 71-58 loss to the Sparks on July 27, 2010.

“They scored 71 points. We scored 59. So that was more frustrating we shot 32.8 percent, Maya [Moore] was 3-of-15, Syl [Sylvia Fowles] was 4-of-12, turned the ball over, just unproductive. [Rebekkah] Brunson and Mone [Seimone Augustus] kind of did their thing. Obviously, we got very little for a bench. Those are hard decisions when your superstars look absolutely awful. So, this was obviously hard to watch from my vantage point,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

“There is no question there is more talent in the Lynx locker room, and no question that the Indiana Fever played much harder in every facet of the game. And hard work beats talent,” Reeve added.

Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell drives past Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen during Tuesday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sports Page Magazine

Achonwa, who scored the game’s first points, led all scorers with 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Forward Victoria Vivians scored 13 and guard Cappie Pondexter scored 12, the only other Fever players with double-digit scoring. Forward Candice Dupree also had nine rebounds.

“We played great defense today. We won that because we played great defense. They didn’t give it to us, we took it,” said Achonwa.

Achonwa received praise from her coach.

“She’s been performing at an efficient clip all year, she’s just not Sports Center highlight worthy to outsiders, but to us she is, she’s in my highlights,” said Chatman. “Sometimes it’s not even the final stats, it’s her ability to screen the right person and make the right cut. She battled tonight with Sylvia [Fowles], and Sylvia is a beast, she’s the best in the game at this position, and that can wear you down. Natalie has been efficient for us and we were able to get the win against a big opponent against a big post opponent for her.”

Minnesota was led by 13 points from forward Rebekkah Brunson, who also led all rebounders with twelve. Brunson now has 3,306 career rebounds, just one shy of Lisa Leslie’s career total for second place all-time, and is ten shy of tying Tamika Catchings mark for first place. It was Brunson’s first double-double of the season.

“We definitely hit a growth spurt and you’re definitely seeing it as we play. I think we’re just all on the same page at this point and we’re making sure we’re talking to each other and making sure we’re staying in each other’s ears and making sure we’re being aware of what’s going on the floor,” said Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles, who was held to eight points and eight rebounds.

One of the biggest differences for the Fever was the addition of Pondexter, who was waived by the Los Angeles Sparks on June 28 and picked up by Indiana three days later. It was her first game in a Fever uniform and the 400th of her career. She pitched in for a dozen points and five rebounds, but more importantly was a needed veteran presence for a young team able to keep them focused down the stretch.

“Ice water in her veins in terms of moments,” said Chatman. “Even when she wasn’t in the game, she’s effecting the bench, talking to some of the youngsters, that’s just clutch. Anytime you can put her in a two-man game with [Candice] Dupree, they were a couple of All-Stars in their own right, in terms of reading defense. I think it brings comfort and calm to the babies in allowing them to grow up.”

Indiana (2-16) travels to the Dallas Wings (8-8) for a 7 p.m. CT matchup tonight. Minnesota (10-7) hosts the Los Angeles Sparks (12-6) also at 7 p.m. CT tonight.

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