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Kelsey Mitchell fourth-quarter scoring frenzy not enough for Fever

Kelsey Mitchell came up three points shy of the WNBA record for points in a quarter Friday night, continuing to show that she is an All-Star caliber player. Her Indiana Fever have lost three in a row, but played a good Connecticut Sun team fairly close thanks to her efforts.

Indiana Fever v Connecticut Sun
Jasmine Thomas of the Connecticut Sun guards Kelsey Mitchell.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Indiana Fever shooting guard Kelsey Mitchell was three points shy of the WNBA record for points in a quarter with 19 in the fourth Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The Fever scored 34 as a team in the frame, which they won by three, but fell 94-85 to the Connecticut Sun because they lost the middle two periods by a combined 15.

Diana Taurasi (2006), Brittney Sykes (2019) and Jewell Loyd (2021) have all scored 22 points in a quarter.

The Fever fell to 2-5, while the highly-regarded Sun improved to 3-1. K. Mitchell finished with a game-high 23 points and five assists, while Victoria Vivians notched 15 points in defeat and point guard Danielle Robinson added 10 points and a game-high six helpers.

With just four points through three, K. Mitchell left us all wondering what changed so drastically in the final frame.

“I think our pace increased,” she said. “Our PG (points to Robinson) kind of influenced and imposed her will as far as taking the ball up the floor really fast. And made it her job and her responsibility to make me run faster down the floor. For me it’s just all about seeing one going in. A combination of being patient and understanding schemes and reads.”

“Like (Kelsey) said, I was pushing up the floor,” Robinson said. “Transition defense is somewhere where we know we can punish them, so I think that was the key. But it starts with getting stops. When we do that, we can just run it up their backs and try and get quick touches for (Kelsey) so she doesn’t have to fight through the double-, triple-team kind of thing. All Kelsey needs is one to go in and the rim gets so big. I’m mad at myself for letting it take that long to get her going. Obviously, she has more touches and looks in the first half I think it's a different ball game. But proud of our effort tonight and for her to get going like that is still incredible. She’s an All-Star by the way.”

Indiana should feel good about playing Connecticut within single digits. The Sun were No. 2 in our preseason power rankings and played with all of their stars Friday night — DeWanna Bonner and Courtney Williams both appeared for the second time this season.

With their full complement of stars, the Sun are 2-0, with the other win coming by 27 over the New York Liberty. Connecticut forced 32 turnovers in that game. It gave Indiana problems too (19 turnovers), but the Fever shot 54 percent from the field, which is phenomenal. K. Mitchell was 9-of-13 and 7-of-8 on twos. The Sun shot just 43.7 percent.

Connecticut made up the difference with an 11-of-19 night from the beyond the arc and 10 more made free throws. Indiana made five less threes and attempted 16 less foul shots, though it was a solid 11-of-13 from the stripe.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fever as they host the Sun next and then play at the defending champion Chicago Sky (2-2), who were first in our preseason power rankings. Indiana knew 2-2 was nothing to celebrate and knew that wins are hard to come by in the WNBA no matter how good your team is. It has now lost three in row, but at least it played a good team close after getting blown out by an Atlanta Dream team that is still being assessed as a contender or pretender in its previous game.

As for K. Mitchell, the 26-year-old is second in the league in scoring with 19.7 points per game and it seems criminal that she has yet to make an All-Star Game after averaging 12.7, 13.6, 17.9 and 17.8 in her first four seasons, respectively. There was no All-Star game in 2020 when she averaged 17.9.

“I don’t think you’re human, you’re not a professional if you don’t want to be (an All-Star), she said Friday night. “Obviously I want to be, I have aspirations to be. But I’ma take it day by day with my team and let’s just focus on winning and improvement.”

Also in Friday night’s game, Tiffany Mitchell reached 500 career rebounds.