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Fever falter in two-part battle between last year’s worst

The Atlanta Dream showed how much they’ve improved, while the Indiana Fever battled through one game and then got blown out in the second.

Indiana Fever v New York Liberty
Danielle Robinson (with ball) has been a bright spot for the Indiana Fever.
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

Playing against the 11th place team from last year for two straight games at home, the Indiana Fever were unable to take advantage of a seemingly golden opportunity to move to 4-2. Instead, they fell to 2-4 with the second loss to the Atlanta Dream coming by much more than the first.

With the way Atlanta is playing, perhaps it wasn't a golden opportunity in the first place.

Indiana lost 101-79 in that second contest Tuesday night. No. 1 pick Rhyne Howard of the Dream, who scored 33 points in the first meeting, came out with two threes in the first 1:49 to help Atlanta get out to an 11-2 start. The Fever had to feel like “here we go again” and while it wasn’t always Howard doing the damage throughout the game, the Dream did run away with the victory.

Another Dream player, Cheyenne Parker, had quite a stretch, scoring 15 points in 11 minutes and 33 seconds of action overlapping the first and second quarters. So the Fever have had a problem recently of letting individual players go off.

Kelsey Mitchell was able to match Howard blow for blow in the first meeting, scoring a season-high 27 points. It was her third straight game of 24-plus and fifth straight game of 15-plus to open the season. She actually held the longest active double-figure streak in the league entering Tuesday at 28 games. But Mitchell was not able to show up in the same way on Tuesday as she was held scoreless until 3:20 remaining in the third and finished with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field. Even with that poor performance, Mitchell is still fourth in the league in scoring with 19.2 points per game.

Victoria Vivians led the Fever in scoring with 16 points — her second scoring outburst of the season. Queen Egbo added 12 points and Emily Engstler had seven with 10 rebounds, but what was most interesting was 21 combined points coming from the team’s two point guards. Starting point guard Danielle Robinson had 12 and backup Destanni Henderson had nine. Robinson was tied with Egbo for second in point production and Henderson was fourth.

Robinson added four assists, while Henderson had two. Robinson now has nine assists in three games, while Henderson is averaging 3.2 helpers per contest in just 17.5 minutes per game. Indiana would probably like to see the assists numbers go up for Robinson, but with her averaging 12.3 points per game and Henderson averaging 7.5, the team is getting some good scoring pop from the point guard position.

We know Robinson is a solid staring point guard in this league. With Henderson we have a small sample size, but she seems to have all the potential in the world to be one of the better backups in the league and make the position a real strength for the Fever.

Henderson scored all her points from beyond the arc on Tuesday, going 3-of-4 from out there and 0-of-2 from inside the arc. She will need to do a better job of getting to the basket and scoring in a variety of ways if she wants to keep her scoring average up because while she is as great 3-point shooter, she’s not going to shoot 75 percent every game. Hopefully she will able to stick around in the league long enough to prove that she can be a star. Her spot isn't going to be safe for long in such a competitive league unless those 19-point games become the norm.

No. 2 pick NaLyssa Smith missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained ankle she suffered in the previous Dream game when she awkwardly fell out of the way of an advancing Rhyne Howard.