Fever Lead Vanishes In Closing Minutes

by Justin Whitaker

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The injury bug just continues to bite the Indiana Fever.

With only nine healthy bodies, Indiana fell to the Chicago Sky 71-61 Saturday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Guard Epiphanny Prince scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead Chicago (5-3).

The Fever led from the middle of the first to the middle of the fourth quarter before the Sky used a 15-5 run to pull away in the final period. During that span, Indiana went nearly six minutes without a field goal.

“It’s nice to pull out a grinding win,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said.

The Sky won its second game in 16 attempts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Fever, the defending WNBA champions, lost its sixth game in a row and moved to 1-6 on the season.

Shortly before game time, Indiana announced 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings would miss Saturday’s game with a lower back injury. She was one of five players who sat out against Chicago and she became the sixth Fever player in the team’s first seven games to miss a game due to injury.

Of Indiana’s four bench players, only Erin Thorn played in the WNBA last season.

“On paper, we aren’t even supposed to be close,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “They should’ve blown us out of the building. You’ve got to give these players credit for battling.”

Shavonte Zellous scored 17 points and was the Fever’s only player to score in double figures.

“The last four minutes they took control and the lead and we couldn’t overcome and get the lead back,” Zellous said.

Prince’s jumper with 5:04 gave Chicago its first lead at 57-56 since 4:58 remaining in the first quarter. Rookie standout Elena Delle Donne capped a 9-0 run with a jumper from the left wing to put the Sky ahead 64-56 with 2:59 left.

Offense was tough to come by for the Fever as they shot 23.3 percent in the second half and 31.7 percent from the game. Indiana forced 17 turnovers and scored 19 points from them but it was not enough to hold onto the win.

Chicago got hot to close the game as they shot 51.9 percent in the final quarter.

“We started off slow in the first three quarters,” Delle Donne said. “We relied on our defense to get us in the game.”

Delle Donne, the WNBA’s second-leading scorer, entered Saturday’s game averaging 19.4 points per game. The 6-foot-5, No. 2 overall pick from Delaware contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 35 minutes.

Catchings’ absence against Chicago followed Friday’s news that reserve center Jessica Davenport will miss the rest of the season after surgery to repair a left tibia stress fracture. Other key players out of action until at least mid-July include Katie Douglas (bulging disc in lower back), Erin Phillips (torn right meniscus) and Jeanette Pohlen (torn left ACL).