Indiana Falls in Final Minute in Opener at Chicago
May 17, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
FEVER SPORTS RELEASE
CHICAGO – Elena Delle Donne scored 23 points and Jessica Breland added 13 as the Chicago Sky overcame an early deficit to beat the Indiana Fever, 74-71, in the season opening game for both teams.
Following a technical foul and with the clock stopped at 1:08 remaining, Delle Donne and Breland combined for three free throws to erase a Fever lead.
Indiana broke a 65-65 deadlock with two free throws by Natasha Howard and a jumper by Briann January, as Indiana owned a 71-67 advantage with 1:46 to play. A Delle Donne jumper with 1:32 to play pulled the Sky within 71-69.
Then, following a foul by Howard and a technical foul assessed to the Indiana’s Erlana Larkins, Delle Donne toed the free throw line to pull within 71-70. Breland followed with another pair of free throws and, later, with 11 seconds remaining, Sasha Goodlett hit two more as Chicago scored the game’s final five points from the charity stripe.
The Fever had a chance for the lead when Shavonte Zellous’ 3-point attempt bounded off the rim with 11.7 seconds left.
“The technical foul certainly hurt us,” said Fever coach Lin Dunn. “That swung momentum. At the end of the day, we had a shot to win. We shot ourselves in the foot.”
Echoed Zellous, “We weren’t poised enough at the end of the game. We played so well in the first half, but at the end, we made mistakes. We didn’t execute.”
The Indiana loss spoiled an outstanding pro debut by Howard, the fifth overall pick in the WNBA Draft. The loss also ended Indiana’s three-game win streak in season-opening games, and ended a streak of five straight Indiana wins at Allstate Arena.
Howard, a lanky forward from Florida State who her teammates call “Slim,” enjoyed a debut that featured 6-of-16 shooting from the floor. She added 10 rebounds, three steals, a pair of assista and record-tying six blocked shots. The blocked shots tied the team’s franchise record overall and broke the mark for a rookie.
Asked to commend on Howard’s debut, Dunn said, “I love her. I thought she played really well … for a rookie. I wish we’d gotten the ball to her more.”
Despite a 30-12 lead in the opening quarter, Indiana was outrebounded 36-33 and managed just 25 points in the second half.
The Fever scored 11 unanswered points early in the contest to command a 14-4 lead, and Indiana stretched it to 30-12 with 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Chicago used a 16-6 run to cut into the lead. The Sky got within six points, 40-34, with less than two minutes before intermission. The Fever took a 46-36 lead into the second half, and the Sky clipped the gap to five after three periods.
Chicago used a 10-2 run to take its first lead of the second half, 65-63 with 6:27 to play.
Zellous added 14 points for Indiana, and Marissa Coleman pitched in 13 in her first game since signing an offseason free agent deal with Indiana. Goodlett, who teamed with Breland on the Indiana roster last season, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds for the Sky.