The Indiana Fever beat the Dallas Wings in its preseason finale, 71-66. The Fever came back from a 17-point deficit on the strength of a 29-13 third quarter and defensive intensity in the fourth quarter. The Wings were held scoreless over the final two minutes and twenty seconds, holding a 66-65 lead. Rookie Paris Kea made a go-ahead layup with 41.8 seconds left, and late free throws from Kelsey Mitchell sealed the win.
As we head into the regular season, here are some things to consider:
Roster decisions loom large
WNBA rosters need to be cut down to 12 by May 23. The Wings suited up 14 of the 17 players listed on their roster entering Sunday’s game. Skylar Diggins-Smith remains out as she recovers from pregnancy, newly-acquired Moriah Jefferson was not active and first round pick Arike Ogunbowale was at her college graduation.
Directly following the game, Nicole Seekamp and Cayla George were waived, leaving three additional cuts to be made.
Megan Gustafson may be one of these players. The rookie was average, at best, throughout the preseason and saw limited time after playing 19 minutes in the first preseason game. With the addition of three players via trade, her place on the team remains uncertain.
Brooke McCarty-Williams got two extended looks, playing over 20 minutes in two of three preseason games. Against Indiana, she scored a team-high 14 points. McCarty-Williams has a strong case to make the roster.
Tayler Hill, who started in place of Ogunbowale, saw her first action of the preseason in yesterday’s loss. The two players Dallas received from Las Vegas for Liz Cambage, Moriah Jefferson and Isabelle Harrison, are possibilities to be cut as well. As unlikely as it may seem given the talent that was given up for them, they are not untouchable.
Meanwhile, Indiana has just two players to cut. Bria Goss, the rookie out of Kentucky, is likely to be the one. The roster is loaded with guards and Goss was a long shot to make the roster.
The second cut becomes tricky. Considering preseason play alone, Kayla Alexander, Stephanie Mavunga and Asia Taylor are three players that may be waived. Not a lot of minutes for any of these players should they make the team, but all played with Indiana last year, although in limited roles.
Indiana could make a leap
Could Indiana make the playoffs this year? Probably not. That said, the Fever just completed a 3-0 preseason using the same starting five in two of the three games.
Kelsey Mitchell led the way with 26 points against Dallas. Tiffany Mitchell, who was not active Sunday, scored 15 points off the bench in Indiana’s second win over Chicago. And rookies Teaira McCowan and Paris Kea made impactful contributions throughout the preseason, as well.
Shenise Johnson got the start Sunday in place of Erica Wheeler, who was inactive. Johnson is coming back from an ACL injury but provides an additional option off the bench for the Fever. She scored seven points and distributed seven assists.
Indiana showed they are better than they were last year. The challenge for this young team, however, will be playing with consistency over the course of an entire season.
Rookies shined for Dallas
Ogunbowale is the obvious starting point guard. She had a team-high 19 points in the Wings’ win over Connecticut in the preseason. Dallas’ success will be determined by how well consistently she can produce over the course of the season.
Second round draft pick Kennedy Burke scored in double-digits in two of the three preseason games, with her largest contribution coming against the Sun: She scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Burke’s added depth will be needed as Dallas waits for Diggins-Smith to return.