The Fever had trimmed a 13-point deficit to one over a nearly 4-minute span, and were about to put a common practice in motion.
January took a bump from Jackson and kicked a pass into the corner to wide-open Shavonte Zellous, who released a 3-point shot just before the clock expired, held her follow through and smiled as the ball fell through to give the Fever an unlikely 68-66 victory over the Seattle Storm on Thursday night.
“That’s something we definitely practice, drive and drift,” January said. “Someone drives baseline, someone slides to the baseline and spots up in the corner. It was either that or a reverse. It was uncontested, wide open.”
Tamika Catchings had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Fever (13-8), who closed with a 15-0 run. January added 11 points and Zellous finished with 10.
“This is a great win for us,” Catchings said. “We go on to Phoenix from here so it’s not like we can get too high, but for tonight, for right now, being able to come out with a `W’ is just huge for this team.”
Camille Little scored 15 points to lead Seattle (10-13), who were 0 for 5 from the field and committed four turnovers over the final 3:50. Sue Bird added 14 points, Shekinna Stricklen had 13 and Ewelina Kobryn 10.
“I think they stole one,” Bird said
The stunning loss spoiled Jackson’s anticipated season debut with the Storm. The three-time MVP, who missed the first half of the season while training with the Australian national team for the Olympics, finished with four points on 1-for-4 shooting and had six rebounds in about 24 minutes.
Jackson looked rusty and appeared confused on how to run a set early in the game.
“I just didn’t fit in,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t help the girls with a presence like mine coming in and not knowing the plays.”
Bird’s jumper with 4:04 to go put Seattle up 66-63, but the Storm didn’t score again. Stricklen missed on the next possession and Catchings started the final rally with a jumper with 3:38 left.
Indiana took advantage of two turnovers by Camille Little—one on a bad pass and another on an offensive foul—as Erin Phillips had a three-point play and Catchings made a 3 to pull Indiana within five about a minute later.
“We knew we were still chipping away,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “We had to get a couple stops and then score. We changed our offensive set and did a few different things down the stretch.”
Jessica Davenport made two baskets as Jackson committed two turnovers and missed a jumper to pull the Fever to 66-65 with 54.7 seconds left.
Bird missed a 3 with 40 seconds to go and Davenport blocked Tanisha Wright’s jumper 22 seconds later, setting up the final play.
“We’ve got a team in there that’s used to winning those games,” Seattle head coach Brian Agler said. “We didn’t. We’ve got to get to a point when we’re put in those situations, either at home or on the road, that we’re making the plays we’ve got to make.”
Jackson had a quiet start, making just one free throw in the first half. She hit her first field goal—a 3-pointer—to stretch Seattle’s lead to 49-38 with just less than 2 minutes left in the third.
January opened the fourth quarter with a corner 3-pointer during which she was fouled by Wright. January completed the four-point play to pull Indiana within 51-46.
However, Svetlana Abrosimova had a driving layup and Wright found a wide-open Little under the hoop to bloat the lead back to 55-46 with 8 1/2 minutes to go.
Seattle fell behind 12-3 to open the game before scoring the next 16 points and taking its first lead on a 3 by Stricklen in the final second of the first quarter.
Stricklen’s fastbreak layup capped the run and put the Storm ahead 19-12 with 8:46 left in the second quarter. Catchings’ layup 30 seconds layup ended Indiana’s scoring drought.
Sasha Goodlett’s layup put the Fever up 22-21 with 4:07 to go in the half, but Little’s two free throws in the final minute gave the Storm a 29-27 lead at the break.