INDIANAPOLIS — Kelsey Mitchell had enough.
After a frustrating first quarter in which the Indiana Fever had more turnovers (nine) than made field goals (five), Mitchell put the team on her back against the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The fifth-year guard started the second quarter with a pull-up jumper and never looked back, draining three straight 3s and another midrange jumper to help his team overcome its rough start.
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After Mitchell’s third 3-pointer of the frame, rookie Destanni Henderson stood up from the bench, raised three fingers and waved them around in a circle. Mitchell was on fire, and the Fever rode her hot hand to an 82-76 victory, their first of the season.
Asked what led to her big night, Mitchell said it was the desire to push the Fever, who’ve had five straight losing seasons, in a new direction.
“You get tired of losing,” Mitchell said. “Over time, being a professional, being a pro in this league, you get tired of seeing the same thing. After a while, it’s just more action, less talk, so I think that’s where the energy came from.”
Mitchell did extra shooting after practice Monday, joking that she needed more reps after shooting 6-for-20 against the LA Sparks on Sunday, and it paid off. The 5-8 guard scored 13 of his team-high 26 points in the second quarter and has scored at least 10 points in a league-leading 26 straight games.
“Kelsey Mitchell was a flat out All-Star today. She was an All-Star today, and we’re gonna start pushing that campaign that she be recognized as one of the best guards in the league,” Fever coach Marianne Stanley said. “You saw her at her best. … She’s not gonna get 26 every night, but she’s a capable guard that’s as good as any two guard in the league.”
Powered by Mitchell, Indiana (1-2) outscored Minnesota 36-18 in the second frame — its third-highest scoring quarter in franchise history — to hold a nine-point lead at halftime.
However, the Lynx (0-2) still have future Hall of Famer Sylvia Fowles, and with her leading the way, stormed back in the second half and took a 70-69 with 5:47 remaining in the game.
Mitchell would not be denied.
She nailed her fourth 3 to retake the lead at 72-70, and Crystal Dangerfield got in on the action as well against her former team. The 5-5 guard made a pull-up jumper a few plays later to stretch the lead to four and added a pair of free throws with 18.9 seconds left to seal the victory. Dangerfield was the 2020 Rookie of the Year and spent her first two seasons with the Lynx before being waived last week. She was picked up by the Fever on a hardship exception contract, and after the final buzzer sounded, she was swarmed by her new teammates while her old ones left the floor in defeat.
“It was special,” Dangerfield said of that moment. “They know what I’ve been through to start this season, and then that was our first win of the season, so it was all the feels.”
Tuesday’s game may have been Dangerfield’s last as a replacement player for the Fever since standard players Alaina Coates and Danielle Robinson have returned from overseas and were in attendance. Indiana faces the New York Liberty on the road Friday.
“Just do what I do. Do what got me into this league,” Dangerfield said of her mindset moving forward. “I know what makes me successful here, and (I’ll) show my worth that way.”
As Dangerfield fights for a roster spot in her third WNBA season, Fowles is in her final campaign. The seven-time All-Star is still dominant and tallied 26 points and a game-high 14 rebounds while schooling Fever rookies NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo, but the young forwards showed their potential in their first WNBA win.
Smith started the game with an and-one fadeaway jumper over another future Hall of Famer, Angel McCoughtry, and tallied nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Egbo, who was questionable to play after spraining her left ankle Sunday against the Sparks, stuffed the stat sheet with four points, eight rebounds, five steals and three blocks, highlighted by a vicious swat of a layup attempt by Aerial Powers in the third quarter .
“Queen is special. She’s a special athlete,” Mitchell said. “A freak of nature as far as her athleticism and to have her come off a night where she wasn’t feeling the best, her ankle wasn’t the best, and then come back today and contribute everything she could possibly do… it’s really special.”