The rebuilding Indiana Fever are on the upswing, but there is still plenty of room to grow.
They look to wrap up a four-game homestand with three victories Tuesday night when they host the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm.
Indiana (3-2) is already halfway to its win total for all of 2018, when it slogged to a 6-28 mark. The Fever were denied a third consecutive victory Sunday with a 94-87 defeat to the Mercury, overwhelmed by Phoenix's size as Britney Griner and DeWanna Bonner combined for 51 points.
"We always talk about cutting off the head of the snake, and their two heads combined for 51," Fever coach Pokey Chatman told the Indy Star after watching her team fall behind by 25 at halftime. "It's tough, and then other people become relevant."
Rookie Kennedy Burke made the most of her extended minutes in a loss far more lopsided than the final score indicated, hitting all four of her 3-point attempts to finish with a season-high 18 points. No. 3 overall pick Teaira McCowan did not fare as well as Griner overpowered her in the paint repeatedly and limited the rookie to two points on 1-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes.
Point guard Erica Wheeler, who looks to be one of the league's most improved players with averages of 13.2 points and 6.8 assists, will try to bounce back after being held to eight and five Sunday.
Seattle (3-3) kicked off a four-game road swing Sunday with its second defeat in as many visits to Chicago, losing 78-71. Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd scored 20 points apiece for the Storm, who shot 3 of 18 from 3-point range and never led.
The Storm, who have played four of their six games on the road, have yet to find much consistency as they have alternated wins and losses thus far. Howard and Loyd are doing their best to shoulder the burden created by the absences of injured stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird - Howard is averaging team highs of 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, and Loyd is scoring 16.0 points per contest.
Stewart is expected to miss the season following a torn Achilles suffered playing overseas, and Bird is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery. Storm coach Dan Hughes is on a leave of absence following surgery last month to treat an undisclosed form of cancer.
Seattle swept three games from the Fever last year, winning the two at Indiana by a combined 35 points.