Indianapolis, IN -- The crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana got their money's worth on Sunday night.
On a night where Breanna Stewart struggled heavily, Jewell Loyd heated up at the right time, scoring 15 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, including the game-winning free throws with 0.4 seconds, to lift the Seattle Storm over the Indiana Fever, 90-88.
Loyd, who struggled at the beginning, was glad to pull out the victory after losing a similar game on Friday night, when the Storm lost to the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, CT.
"We had a close game the other night and we came up a little short," Loyd said. "Coming here on the road and competing to the very end and there was a little adversity in this game for sure."
From the opening jump, Seattle (4-6) dominated the pace of the game. Two quick three-pointers by Sue Bird, helped the Storm climb to a quick 11-3 lead. Before long, the Storm were up 17-5, and the Fever were already in foul trouble.
The lack of defensive discipline, along with poor shooting (4-of-13 field goal attempts in the first quarter) led to a 17-point deficit for the Fever to close out the first, as they were trailing 29-12.
Indiana (4-6) came out swinging in the second quarter, however, as the team went on a 19-7 tear. Briann January and Tamika Catchings jump-started the rally with a pair of three-pointers, and the Fever made nine of 11 free-throws to close the gap on the Storm. The Fever went into halftime only down six points, 42-36.
Indiana head coach Stephanie White was a little concerned about what she saw in the first half, considering the inconsistency the Fever showed in a 73-64 loss to the Chicago Sky on Friday night.
"We are a team on a journey, a journey to find cohesiveness," White said. "We have to find our rotations and we have to find cohesion on both ends of the floor. That is going to take time, and I'm ok with that. But what we can't have is lack of effort!"
The third quarter was an absolute game of tug-of-war for both teams, as they traded turnovers and free throws. Seattle looked to have won the battle in the latter half of the quarter, with a Ramu Tokashiki layup putting the Storm up 60-50, with 3:05 to go. Jenna O'Hea followed with another layup to pad the lead, and Seattle went into the fourth quarter with a 66-54 lead.
Indiana, led by Catchings, January and Shenise Johnson, refused to lay down and gave Seattle a fight to the end. With 1:47 left to go in the game, facing an 84-77 deficit, the Fever went on a 10-2 run (capitalized by a Tiffany Mitchell layup) to take an 87-86 lead with 31 seconds to go. Loyd, however, had other plans. With 24 seconds to go, Loyd made a running jumper to give Seattle the lead again.
It was the next possession that Loyd nearly gave away the game. After a missed jump shot by Mitchell, Loyd committed a loose ball foul (her fourth of the game), sending Johnson to the line.
Johnson, who was 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the game, made one of the two free-throws to tie the game at 88. However, it was Johnson who ended up sending Loyd to the line with nearly no time left. Loyd, the sixth-best free-throw shooter in the league at 91 percent, made both free-throws to give Seattle the win.
Seattle head coach Jenny Boucek was proud of how her team managed to stick it out after failing to do so the previous game, and praised Loyd's hustle in the closing seconds.
"It was hectic, a hectic fourth quarter," Boucek said. "It's really tough to win on the road. Try to put yourself in the position and hope things go your way. The other night against Connecticut they didn't and tonight they did."
With the win, Seattle broke a five-game losing streak against Indiana.
Loyd finished the game with 20 points for the Storm, despite only scoring five first-half points. Bird finished with 16 (4-7 3PT), while O'Hea had 10 points, scoring eight of them in the fourth. Stewart had an uncharacteristically off-night, only scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds. She did, however, dish out six assists and had three blocks.
For Indiana, Catchings scored a game-high 27 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter. January, in her fifth game back from a torn meniscus tear she suffered in last year's WNBA Finals, finished with 15 points, while Johnson scored 13.
Catchings was critical of her team's overall performance, but found a positive in how the game ended.
"I mean, I think the takeaway really is we just have to start the game out better," Catchings said. "First quarter and third quarter, coming out of the locker room basically we've got to figure out a better way to come out with more energy and not to dig ourselves a hole we've got to come out of."
"But I think the effort down the stretch, definitely the fourth quarter, the effort you saw from everybody, that's the type of energy. That's how we need to play for 40 minutes."
The Fever get a couple of days off before traveling to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to face the Mystics. Seattle travels to San Antonio on Tuesday to face the Stars in their third of four straight away games.