With just one championship in pro sports, you are forever on top of the world.
So stand the 2012 Indiana Fever, who were honored at halftime of the 2022 Fever’s home game Sunday afternoon.
The star of the 2012 champs, Tamika Catchings, was nearing the end of her prime and the 2011 champion Minnesota Lynx were on the rise as a dynasty when Indiana captured its lone title thus far. In an upset Finals run, the Fever dethroned an all-time great team behind 22.3 points per game from Finals MVP Catchings and themselves became an all-time great team while instilling pride in the franchise.
“We’re always gonna honor that group because they set the standard for what Indiana basketball can be and what we want it to be,” said current Fever head coach Marianne Stanley after her team fell to the Connecticut Sun 92-70 on Sunday.
The Fever are now 2-6 in 2022 after a 2-2 start brought hope that this year would be different from their 6-26 campaign a year ago. In the face of their struggles, the Fever at least have the inspiration that Sunday’s halftime ceremony provides.
“There was a toughness and a resilience,” Stanley said of the 2012 team. “Those are things we need right now. ... I don’t think they ever expected to be given anything and neither do we.”
The Fever were coming off a game where they were competitive against the Sun (4-1) in Connecticut, but suffered a much larger margin of defeat despite having home court advantage. They cleaned up their turnovers, going from 19 to 13, but went from 54 percent shooting from the field to 34.9 percent.
“Connecticut showed it’s experience today and they played the big lineup a lot, which is gonna give a lot of people trouble,” Stanley said. “And we had some difficulty handling it. You just gotta tip your hat to them. They shot the ball well and on a night when we were struggling offensively, just made it tough. The gap between us just kept getting bigger.”
Stanley was happy with a lot of the shots her team got and was frustrated that they just couldn’t convert. She also said she was happy with a 23-of-27 effort from the charity stripe.
“One area that was improved and it needs to be just like this is our free throws,” she said. “First of all getting to the line, so we were more aggressive, which is a good sign. And then making free throws. They a lot of times can keep you in a game when other things aren’t going well.”
The Fever may have lost by 22 points, but they were without second-leading scorer NaLyssa Smith for the third straight game. Smith sprained her ankle on May 15 against the Atlanta Dream.
“She stretches the floor, she plays with pace and energy and she finishes at a high level,” Queen Egbo said of Smith, her former Baylor teammate. “And she just brings that offensive game and confidence that we need. Of course we’re doing what’s best ... until she’s ready to go, but we definitely are missing her on the floor.”
Indiana is also waiting for Bria Hartley to return from a hamstring injury. Hartley has star potential, having averaged 14.6 points and 4.5 assists in the wubble. This is her first year with the Fever.
Fever leading scorer Kelsey Mitchell was held to just five points, but reached 2,000 for her career. She has been phenomenal this year with six 15-plus games and four 20-plus, but has now been held to five twice in the last three games. On a positive note, she had a team-high five assists and is now averaging 4.3 per game. She has never averaged more than 2.8 in a full season.
Danielle Robinson was held to just two points and played slightly less than her back up, Destanni Henderson (six points). Henderson added a very solid four assists, but hasn’t had a scoring outburst since scoring 19 in the second game of the season.
Victoria Vivians led the team with 15 points, while Emily Engstler (11 points, seven boards) and Queen Egbo (nine points, eight boards) flirted with a double-doubles.
Tiffany Mitchell added to Henderson’s bench points with nine and Alaina Coates had six.
“Another decent bright spot for us was that we got 28 points out of our bench,” Stanley said. “So we’re being productive, we’re playing a lot of people. It’s all valuable experience and I just gotta hang my hat on that. We’re getting the kind of experience against quality opponents that we need to be better, to grow and to learn.
“The difficult part is to just try to stay levelheaded through when it’s difficult. Because it is difficult. I’m disappointed for our players because I know they want to win badly and they’re working hard. That’s not an issue. But there are no easy ones on the schedule and it’s just tough. We’ll be disappointed for 24 hours and then we’ll flush this and be ready to go against Chicago.”