Sputtering Offense Roadblock to Playoffs
By Madison Warfel
The Fever will play back-to-back games against the Washington Mystics on Friday and Sunday. If they win both of those games, they could potentially move up from fifth to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and would be only a half-game back from third place. Reaching the playoffs certainly seems like a more reasonable goal now than it did four weeks ago, but it’s far from guaranteed.
And despite the improvements the Fever has made recently, they are still not without their problems. Indiana is arguably the worst offensive team in the WNBA, ranking last in the league in points per game and second to last in field goal percentage.
On the other side of the ball, the Fever are arguably one of the best defensive teams in the league, ranking first in the WNBA in opponent points per game and second in forced turnovers. Players and coaches all season long have said that the Fever way of basketball is to play tough, tenacious defense. And there’s no doubt that the Fever have relied on their defense to carry them when their offense has sputtered.
“Hopefully defense can translate into offense. Offense isn’t something we can always control, but we can always control our defense,” Erlana Larkins said.
But in order to get back to the playoffs and make another deep run like they did last year, the offense must improve.
“The question is, are we getting open shots? And we’re getting a lot of open shots,” Coach Dunn said. “What happened in New York was we knocked down open shots, we hit like three or four threes in a row. So we’re getting open shots, we just need to knock them down. And when you’ve got a lot of backups now playing starting roles and replacement players playing sixth, seven, eighth man, you’re rhythm is a little off.”
The return of sharpshooting guard Erin Phillips has brought a certain spark on the offensive end and has eased a bit of the scoring burden off of Shavonte Zellous and Tamika Catchings. In two games since returning from a knee injury, Phillips is averaging 10 points and shooting 45 percent from the 3-point line. The Fever is still waiting for shooters Katie Douglas and Jeanette Pohlen to make their returns to the lineup. Their returns should add some scoring depth to an offense that desperately needs it.
For now, though, as the Fever wait for all the injuries to be alleviated and for their team to return to full strength, a sense of urgency is needed. If they can claw their way into the playoffs, another trip to the Finals is not out of the question.
But making the playoffs is not a guarantee, even for the reigning WNBA champs.
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