WASHINGTON (AP)—With three starters sitting out, Indiana coach Lin Dunn liked what she saw from the backups.
Erin Phillips scored a season-high 19 points and the Indiana pulled away in the second half to beat the Washington Mystics 66-53. Jessica Davenport added 14 to help the Fever (21-12) snap a three-game losing streak. Indiana also reached 21 wins for the seventh time in the last eight years.
”It’s like good news, bad news. The bad news is we’ve got some people sick or hurt. But the good news is that gives all these other players quality time in a very competitive situation,” Dunn said. ”We’re playing to win. We feel like this is gonna help our bench going into the playoffs.”
The second-place Fever open the first round of the postseason on Thursday at home against Atlanta.
Indiana was without three injured starters including Briann January and Shavonte Zellous - who are both undergoing evaluations for concussion symptoms after suffering head injuries Monday against Minnesota - and Katie Douglas. Karima Christmas left in the second quarter and didn’t return.
Erlana Larkins (eight points and 11 rebounds) and Jeanette Pohlen (six points and five rebounds) were the other replacements in the starting lineup.
”We’ve prided ourselves on having a deep bench throughout the season,” Phillips said. ”Everybody’s played almost every game.”
Monique Currie scored 16 points to lead last-place Washington (5-28), which has lost 12 straight and 18 of its last 20.
”Defensively, to hold Indiana to 66 points is a pretty good job,” Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said. ”I thought offensively we struggled shooting the ball. We just missed a lot of open shots.”
The Mystics shot 34 percent (22 of 65) from the field and were outrebounded 43-40.
Washington was also short-handed, playing without leading scorer Crystal Langhorne due to a left foot strain, as well as Noelle Quinn and Michelle Snow.
Phillips, starting in place of January, scored 11 of her points in the third quarter as Indiana extended a two-point halftime lead to 12 points heading to the fourth.
”We started with eight players, and then we were down to seven, so physically, it was a tough battle. But we played a lot of zone, pretty much all zone,” Phillips said. ”I thought we did a pretty good job to hold them to what we did. We won the boards, so just all around it was a pretty good effort.”
The Mystics pulled to 54-47 on a 3-pointer by Jasmine Thomas early in the last quarter, but Indiana soon went on a 6-0 run and Washington got no closer than within 11 the rest of the way.
The first half featured 10 lead changes, the final one coming when Tamika Catchings drove the lane, scored and was fouled with :28 left. She converted the free throw and Indiana led 28-26 at halftime.
”Look at going into Sunday’s game against Tulsa and then moving on to the playoffs, we’re gonna need this group to step up big, so this is a good start for them,” said Catchings, who sat out most of the second half and finished with nine points.