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‘Terrible’ officiating plagues Phoenix; Indiana snaps 5-game skid

The Indiana Fever clawed their way out of a five-game losing streak in a battle with the Phoenix Mercury today (July 22) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Mercury struggled due to a lack of defensive effort and foul trouble.

Barry Gossage — NBAE/Getty Images

Phoenix, AZ -- The Indiana Fever came into today’s game searching desperately for a win. Suffering their longest regular season losing streak since 2013, it’s safe to say the Fever were in a serious slump. With a cohesive effort from the team and players stepping up to fill roles, Indiana was able to outlast Phoenix.

The Mercury were looking to rebound from their loss against the Lynx, but without Brittney Griner and a lack of urgency on defense, they fell short. Phoenix maintained the lead for most of the first quarter, but after a few late fouls were committed, the Fever was able to get into a rhythm and finish out the quarter on top.

Candice Dupree scored eight points in the first quarter to give her team a 21-15 lead.

Indiana carried that energy into the second quarter, forcing a quick Mercury timeout. Phoenix began to bounce back, slowly closing the deficit. In superstar fashion, Diana Taurasi tied up the game, hitting a 3-point jump shot late in the second quarter.

The Fever answered, but Taurasi once again came up big. With less than 30 seconds to go, Taurasi drove to the hoop, finishing a flawless layup and drawing a foul to put the Mercury in front. At the half, Phoenix led 39-38.

Controversy plagued the third quarter when Taurasi was called for an offensive foul. And in the midst of the officials reviewing the play, she received a technical foul along with one of the Mercury assistant coaches.

“Terrible. That's what Diana gets every game,” Phoenix’s head coach Sandy Brondello stated on the officiating. “It's tough for her in that regard.”

“They’re the ones calling it, and we probably lost our composure a little bit,” Brondello said. “All I ask is for the right fouls to be called.”

The Fever cashed in all four foul shots, but it wasn’t long before Stephanie Talbot scored for Phoenix and tied the game back up once again.

More problems came for the Mercury when Taurasi got into foul trouble with three minutes remaining in the third quarter after diving for a loose ball for her fourth. With Taurasi on the bench, there was an obvious shift in momentum on the court, which Indiana did not hesitate to take advantage of.

Erica Wheeler played a solid quarter of basketball, helping the Fever to hold onto their 65-63 lead.

The fourth quarter played out in a back-and-forth fashion. Late in the stanza, Monique Currie hit a three-point jump shot and drove to the hoop for a layup. With less than two minutes to go, the Mercury trailed the Fever 79-77.

Indiana was playing with a noticeable sense of urgency and grit throughout the fourth quarter – and the “W” was soon out of reach for the Mercury.

Fever head coach, Pokey Chatman, was proud of the way her players performed, especially in the fourth quarter.

“When you’re hunting to win, you can taste it, you can smell it, you know you’ve been putting in the work, despite having some losses, as a connective group you trust each other,” said Chatman.

Chatman also noted that one of the biggest things that allowed them to capture this win was that everyone that went in the game played efficient minutes.

Dupree finished the game with the second highest point total, scoring 17 points. Wheeler racked up 20 points for the Fever, making her the game high scorer for the Fever.

“It was huge for us, especially going into a back-to-back against San Antonio,” Dupree said on Indiana’s gaining momentum from the win. “Luckily, it was an early game so we have a little bit more time to get some rest, but we have to be ready.”

Indiana improved to 8-12 on the season and the Mercury falls to 11-9 overall.