The Indiana Fever (3-9) have hit hard times again after winning in interim head coach Carlos Knox’s debut. Their losing streak is just two games, but the losses were tough to take. The first, on Tuesday, saw a blown lead deprive the team of the sweet feeling of a quality win over the Washington Mystics (7-4). The second, on Wednesday, was to a New York Liberty team (3-7) that was not only in last place at the time but also had some awful-looking losses on its record, including a 31-point loss to the Seattle Storm the game before. The Liberty were also without arguably their best player in Betnijah Laney and still won by 13.
Against Washington, the Fever led by eight at halftime, but lost the second half by 20.
“I thought Washington did a good job of really picking up their defensive effort,” Knox said of what went wrong after the break. “And I think we did a mediocre job of matching that intensity and that focus.”
“We kind of talked about it the locker room, when we get down, not to let that change the game,” NaLyssa Smith added. “Really just changing our mindset, like when we get down we know that we’re still in the game, there’s plenty of time on the clock.
“We’re so close to being that team that is in the running for everything. But it’s just we have little things we gotta fix. We’re a young team, you know, we’ve never played with each other. But when we get those things fixed we gon’ start winning.”
Indiana gave up 28 points to Mystics shooting guard Ariel Atkins, nine assists to Natasha Cloud and 15 rebounds to Elizabeth Williams, who also had six blocks. On the Fever side, Kelsey Mitchell had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, but it was not enough.
K. Mitchell was at least able to remain consistent with another good outing (17 points) against New York.
Kelsey Mitchell a Player of the Week for the first time
Kelsey Mitchell won Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the week of May 23. She had never been Player of the Week before.
“You grow to be appreciative because it never happened to me,” she said. “I can’t really put into words how I really feel about it. You definitely gotta move on, I have to play a game the next day. I’m grateful. But you can’t get too high or get too low about it. But to see my team kind of like appreciate me, and our staff, just the whole organization … that felt really good. So I’m gonna take that and utilize that and put it toward our team.”
Bria Hartley debuts
The Fever entered 2021 with what was clearly the weakest roster in the league after not doing much to improve a 6-16 team that offseason. But this past offseason, they picked up Bria Hartley in a trade and Hartley is only removed from 14.6-point, 4.5-assist 2020 by injury issues. She was the fourth-best player on the Mercury in the wubble, after an elite big three. With her, the Fever have added a relatively big name to improve their standing on paper.
Hartley played her first game in a Fever jersey on Wednesday. She had a solid outing, scoring 10 points in just 15:02 on the strength of a 4-of-7 effort from the field (2-of-2 from distance).
“I just feel like the team’s style of play really fits my style of play,” she said. “So I just kind of run our sets, take my shots when I see my shots, be aggressive and try to create for others. And obviously it was successful tonight, a little bit. And I want to keep doing that and keep building.
“I’ve always kind of been like a scorer. Scorer and shooter. So I’m gonna be aggressive with that. But then I also think I’m a playmaker. I think I can probably do a better job of getting in the lane and creating for others than I did tonight. So I’m gonna just keep building on that. And then defensively I think I can be disruptive. Definitely something that needs improvement, but I think I can definitely get into some of the guards and make it difficult for them.”
Gary Kloppenburg hired as assistant coach
This is a great hire. Kloppenburg doesn’t get enough credit for the WNBA championship he won as head coach of the Storm in 2020. People seem to think of that 2020 Storm team as still being Dan Hughes’ team. And Hughes’ fingerprints were all over it, but Kloppenburg was officially the head coach and was the one on the sidelines, even if it was under the interim tag.