Washington, D.C. -- The Indiana Fever would get out to a slow offensive start against the Washington Mystics, but finished the second half strong to leave D.C. with a 73-62 win.
The Fever were led by Tamika Catchings with a game-high 20 points. Shenise Johnson and Marissa Coleman both chipped in 11. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt recorded a team-high 15 for the Mystics and Ivory Latta added 13.
"I think for us really its just a matter of how we play defensively," Catchings said. "Just to be able to take what we are doing in practice and implement it in a game, that's huge. We're playing with energy. And when you look at the games we've lost in the past you look at the constant things.
We don't rebound, we don't do a good job communicating defensively, we're just all over the place and we're not getting the 50-50 balls."
"It was just a couple of loose balls that we weren't getting, 50-50 balls," Ruffin-Pratt said following the loss. "Other than that, they were being a little more disciplined."
Rebounding, ultimately, played an enormous role in Indiana's victory, and after grabbing six boards tonight, Catchings is now tied with Tina Thompson (3,070) for second in WNBA history.
"It's been a weakness of ours this season, and we've been trying to talk to our team about the importance of getting the boards," Fever head coach Stephanie White said. "We certainly want to play up-tempo basketball, and we can't do that if we don't have the ball. So we wanted to finish the play with a defensive board, and I felt like our extra effort and hustle plays to get the offensive glass was critical tonight."
"They bullied us better," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "From about a couple minutes into the third quarter until the early 4th they got every loose ball, they got offensive rebound, we got shoved around and if you want to play at the highest level you have to respond to that and I don't think we did that quick enough to stop their run."
In a contested first quarter, Indiana and Washington would trade baskets to begin the game. Ruffin-Pratt opened things up for the Mystics scoring the first four points of the night.
Ivory Latta would quickly follow with a three-pointer to give Washington a commanding 9-4 lead. After being tied at 11, the offense would slow for both teams, until Hill made a jump shot for Washington that put the Mystics ahead 14-11 going into the second quarter
Despite a recent back injury, Kara Lawson came out with something to prove in the second quarter, scoring two quick buckets along with Hill to give Washington a 20-13 advantage.
An Indiana timeout could not stop the Mystics, though, as Ruffin-Pratt and Hill would hit back to back three-pointers to put Washington up, 26-15. Lynetta Kizer would do her best to end the scoring drought for the Fever, scoring a layup and jumper back-to-back to cut Washington's lead to eight.
Natasha Howard would end a nearly two-minute scoring drought for both teams, followed quickly by an and-one layup from Johnson and a layup from Erlana Larkins that would cut the Mystics lead to three, 31-28. After an earlier Washington field goal was overturned right before halftime, Indiana would take a one-point lead, 32-31.
The opening of the second half was all Indiana. The Fever would gain a 42-35 advantage based around diversified scoring. Indiana would follow the opening minutes with a 10-2 run behind two baskets from Johnson that gave them the 52-37 edge. Hill would score a quick three-pointer for the Mystics followed by a layup from Armintie Herrington that would narrow the Fevers lead, 54-44 heading into the last quarter.
Catchings would come out strong in the final quarter, scoring six quick points capped by a three-pointer from Shavonte Zellous to give the Fever a 63-49 lead. Washington would not be able to get an offensive run started in the fourth quarter to overcome the large deficit.
The Fever improve to 13-9 while The Mystics fall to 13-9 in regular season play. There is now a three-way tie for the Eastern Conference.
"We talked about it before the game because this was a playoff game for us," Catchings said. "This was a game we needed to have. We came out, and I thought we started the game really good but then went into a little bit of a lull and then things really came together in the second half."