Sky-Fever Preview

The Indiana Fever continue to have trouble holding onto leads, though they’ve usually avoided that problem when hosting the Chicago Sky.

The Fever look to avoid a third straight defeat Thursday night by adding to their home dominance over the short-handed Sky, losers of five in a row.

Indiana (10-12) squandered a second-half advantage for the seventh time in 10 games Tuesday, blowing a 10-point lead early in the third quarter and falling 86-78 to visiting Los Angeles.

It was the eighth time this year that the Fever couldn’t hold a double-digit lead, and they’ve lost six of those games.

"We keep talking about the focus. We keep talking about the turnovers. We keep talking about boxing out and playing good defense," said forward Tamika Catchings, who had a season-high 25 points. "It’s a whole bunch of excuses. That’s what it comes down to. You just have to buy in and just do it."

The Fever will try to bounce back with their 17th win in 19 home games against the Sky (8-13), who are playing without All-Star forward Elena Delle Donne (Lyme disease) and starting guard Courtney Vandersloot (knee). Thursday’s contest opens a home-and-home series that’s sandwiched around Saturday’s All-Star game.

Indiana is hosting Chicago for the first time since a 79-57 rout Sept. 22 that completed a two-game sweep of the Eastern Conference semifinals and ended the Sky’s first playoff appearance.

The teams have split their two matchups this season, with Catchings missing both because of an ailing back and the Sky’s Sylvia Fowles sitting out while recovering from hip surgery. Catchings has averaged 20.8 points in her last four games after scoring six in her return July 5.

Fowles has averaged 19.5 points and 13.3 rebounds in her last four, but the Sky have lost each by single digits. She had 17 points and 14 boards at Atlanta on Sunday but missed a layup at the regulation buzzer in an 81-79 overtime defeat.

Reserve Allie Quigley scored a career-high 27 points but Chicago couldn’t capitalize on its 11-point lead in the second quarter. The Sky, who committed 21 turnovers and were beaten 21-13 on the offensive glass, have lost five in a row for the first time since a nine-game skid in 2012.

"Stupid stuff gets you beat," coach Pokey Chatman said. "Until we stop aiding in our demise, the hole is going to get deeper."

Jessica Breland, likely Chicago’s lone representative in Phoenix on Saturday, had four points on 2-of-12 shooting. The forward has totaled seven points in the last two games and averaged 8.1 in her last eight – 6.4 below the mark of her first 11 contests.

She had 16 points in the most recent matchup with Indiana, an 83-75 loss June 20, and scored 13 in a 74-71 victory May 16.

Indiana might get back Briann January, one of its two All-Stars along with Catchings, after she sat out Tuesday’s game because of a bruised right knee.

These teams will complete their two-game set Tuesday.