The Indiana Fever and Washington Mystics are both looking to put an end to losing streaks Friday night, and the best way to do that may be with a more balanced scoring attack.
A season-high 31 points from reigning MVP Tamika Catchings was not enough to push the Fever (4-2) past Connecticut last Friday. Indiana watched the game slowly slip away after Catchings went down in the third quarter due to an elbow to the face from teammate Tammy Sutton-Brown.
Catchings would not return for a few minutes, and the Sun quickly took advantage, going on a big run en route to handing the Fever their second straight loss after four consecutive wins to open the season.
To get back on the winning track, Indiana knows it is going to need contributions from every player and not just depend on Catchings and Katie Douglas, who chipped in with 23 points. Outside of Briann January's nine points, no other Fever player scored more than four.
"You can't win with one or two players," Sutton-Brown said, "We're going to need all 11 of us to be successful."
Washington (1-5) is in the midst of a four-game slide, but has maintained a sense of optimism despite the slow start. While its record may be discouraging, two of its losses have come by just two points. The Mystics are confident they can win games like that going forward.
"We're doing a lot of good things, and we need to continue to do the same stuff like talk defensively and help each other, it just comes down to the plays at the end of the game, taking care of the ball, executing and finishing out games," guard Noelle Quinn said.
One thing that doesn't need improvement is the play of the team's leading scorer, Crystal Langhorne, who is averaging 17.2 points and 6.7 rebounds. Even more importantly, she's making the most of her opportunities, converting on 58.6 percent of her shots, good for fourth-best in the league.
"Right now, Lang's playing extremely well, shooting a high percentage from the floor. Her defense has improved. She's leading the way so we have to have our veterans step up and be consistent," said coach Trudi Lacey.
Outside of Langhorne, however, the Mystics are going to need more help on the offensive end. They are scoring just 69.5 points, ranking 11th out of 12 teams.
If Washington is going to be successful, it will also need to tighten up its long-range defense. The club is allowing a league-worst 43.5 shooting percentage from beyond the arc - particularly bad news with Catchings coming off a performance that saw her make a season-high six 3-pointers.
Catchings is shooting a career-high 48.4 percent from long range so far, while the Fever are averaging 82.8 points per game, third-highest total in the league.
This is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Fever won all five contests last year.