It’s a new day in Indiana. Following a horrid start to the season, the Fever have won four of their last seven games and feel like a completely rejuvenated team despite a slew of injuries. The Fever lost Bernadett Határ, Chelsey Perry, Jantel Lavender, Jessica Breland, Kysre Gondrezick and Tiffany Mitchell (all for various periods of time), yet Indiana was rolling up until a blowout loss against the contending Las Vegas Aces.
At the forefront of the Fever’s recent success is the three-game win streak prior to the Olympic break. After losing 12 straight, the Fever rebounded and picked up a huge upset win over the Connecticut Sun.
After beginning the season on an uneven note and even moving to the bench for an extended period, Teaira McCowan bounced back in a big way through this stretch. In the game against the Sun, McCowan played lockdown defense on one of the best bigs in the game in Jonquel Jones. McCowan held Jones to just 16 points on 5-of-17 shooting and picked up a double-double to go along with two blocks.
McCowan is a key cog for this team, and in her third season, she’s improving in several categories. McCowan’s 11.1 points per game are a career high, as are her blocks, assists and field goals made per game. Although a non-playoff season isn’t ideal, difficult seasons like this one can often provide insight into which players can be rotational on a contender. At merely 24 years old, McCowan is one of those long-term staples for Indiana. In the Fever’s last four wins, McCowan is averaging 15.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. In the two losses that interrupted that win streak, McCowan averaged just 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 block while averaging 2.0 turnovers and 6.0 fouls per game. Indy typically moves as she does.
However, McCowan interrupted that up-and-down style of play in the Fever’s loss against the Aces as she was able to record 12 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists (a career high), two steals and a block in that game.
But McCowan isn’t the only reason the Fever have been able to stay afloat. It has taken a team effort from top to bottom as everyone from star Kelsey Mitchell to seven-day contract Emma Cannon has contributed to the overall success.
“We’ve needed everybody,” said head coach Marianne Stanley. “I think [this stretch]has given them the confidence to know that we are doing the right things and that they are better than that record shows and that none of that matters. It doesn’t matter what outsiders think or say.”
Speaking of doing the right things, Kelsey Mitchell has been outright fantastic, averaging 16.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the six games before the blowout loss to Las Vegas. That’s normal for Kelsey. However, K. Mitchell was improving her shot output by the day, and she shot 37.5 percent on 6.7 deep-ball attempts per game during that stretch of time. While the Ohio State product has been a deadly scorer all season, her 13 points in the first quarter against the Sparks is indicative of how relentless she is.
While Kelsey Mitchell has been a key piece for the Fever since the beginning of the season, Cannon joined the team on a seven-day deal but has been completely locked in during her short stint thus far. In three games, Cannon already earned two starts, and she is averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds on a very efficient 50.0 percent clip from the floor. In the most recent Fever win, Cannon posted 16 points, five rebounds and two assists.
It definitely helps that Cannon has familiarity with the Fever. Cannon played a season with Danielle Robinson with the Phoenix Mercury and then joined her with the Las Vegas Aces, where she also played with Lindsay Allen. According to Stanley, that’s why Indy was quick to bring Cannon in.
“She’s also played with Kelsey Mitchell in Turkey,” Stanley said. “I think it was a great fit right from the beginning because they knew each other; they were familiar with each other. People welcomed her. She brought a toughness and an energy level that we really needed.”
Two other players have stood out during this stretch: Victoria Vivians and Danielle Robinson. Vivians seems to have fully recovered from the injuries that set her back at the beginning of the season and has even taken over a starting spot, but that role may be temporary until Tiffany Mitchell can return. Vivians hasn’t fully nailed down her deep shot, but her 5-of-9 performance from downtown against the Mercury is indicative of the type of player she can be. Vivians has found a way to be extremely effective as of late even when her deep ball isn’t falling. Before putting up a dud against the Aces, Vivians had averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game across a three-game stretch.
On the other hand, Robinson’s skill speaks for itself. The former All-Star has been one of the only spots of consistency for the Fever in a lost season. Look no further than her spectacular and-one buzzer-beater that lifted Indy over the Dallas Wings.
Robinson finished that game with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists, and she is up to 1.6 steals per game on the season, which ranks tied for fifth in the league.
Times have been undeniably hard in Indiana this season, and some fans have expressed concern that the Fever are playing themselves out of a better lottery position. While this is true, nothing is more valuable than the Fever building some sort of culture however they can.
“Tremendous credit to our players for just sticking with things,” Stanley said. “You can’t measure the heart. I think our players play with a tremendous amount of heart, and sometimes, I don’t think they get the credit they deserve.”