Fantasy Basketball

WNBA: Kelsey Mitchell drops 26 for Indiana Fever in team’s first win

With as much scrutiny as the Indiana Fever face, it’s nice to see them get a win this early in the season.

It took them until their fifth game to get their first win last year and until their 18th game to get their second. They were better in 2020, winning their second game and finishing with a .273 winning percentage compared to .188 last year. So while it seems like it’s been quite a while that they’ve been the worst team in the WNBA, it’s really just been one year. The Liberty were the worst team in 2020 as they finished four games behind the Fever.

2021 was just really tough because the Fever came in expected to be by far the worst team and finished, not by far, but as the worst team. So it was just frustrating that they couldn’t prove anyone wrong.

They were competitive in both of their first two games this year and, as mentioned here, a better shooting night from best player Kelsey Mitchell in the second game could have resulted in a win. So you have to feel good for the Fever as a team and also K. Mitchell as an individual that she came out in the third game Tuesday night determined to lead her team to victory and did just that. She dropped 26 points (9-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 from distance) and Indiana took down Minnesota 82-76 at home.

“Kelsey Mitchell was a flat-out All-Star today,” said Fever head coach Marianne Stanley. “We’re gonna start pushing that campaign that she be recognized as one of the better guards in the league. You saw her at her best. I’m happy for her and for us because we were a little stagnant for a bit in the second quarter and she just erupted and everybody just kind of rode that wave. Got us going, energized the whole team. And she’s capable of that. So I’m just happy for Kels because I know how hard she has worked. And so to see everything come to fruition for her and for us is great. She’s one of our leaders, we’re counting on her. She’s not gonna get 26 every night, but she’s a capable guard who’s as good as any 2 guard in our league.”

One thing to keep an eye on with the Fever is a fierce competition for their starting point guard role. Destanni Henderson scored 19 points in game No. 2, while Crystal Dangerfield played just 10 minutes and had three points. In game No. 3 Dangerfield came alive with 10 points and six assists and received equal playing time to Henderson, who notched eight points and five helpers. Neither player had a turnover. Henderson has started all three games.

“Crystal was really good tonight,” Stanley said. “Six assists, no turnovers? That’s a great floor game. Really, truly. For someone who just joined us five days ago. That’s why we got her off waivers, because I knew she was not just a competent guard, but a smart player. I wasn’t as familiar with her as far as her poise and her calm and leadership at the point. I always liked her. But she was terrific today, she really was.

“For any player when things don’t work out in one place and then they can work out fairly well in another, it’s good. And I think everybody on our team recognized the impact that she had and how important it was.”

The Fever are lucky to have a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in Henderson and the 2020 Rookie of the Year in Dangerfield, who averaged 16.2 points and 3.6 assists the year she won. It sucks to think that Dangerfield is clinging to even being in the league just two years later and maybe she is more secure than her being cut by the Lynx indicates. But talent in the WNBA operates in a vicious cycle as Dangerfield is now competing with a rookie for playing time.

Hopefully both Henderson and Dangerfield can continue to make an impact and make it so that the Fever always have a really good point guard on the floor. In spite of all the negativity surrounding the way the Fever are perceived on paper, they may finally have one position where they have an advantage.

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