All-Star Tamika Catchings scored a season-high 28 points to lead a balanced Indiana scoring attack as the Fever dispatched the Mystics 82-70 at Verizon Center.
"I think we are trying to grow into what they have become," guard Alana Beard said. "They are a very good team, and we can take a few things away from this game. ... We were in this game, but we can't let Tamika Catchings come into our house and score 28 and get 14 from the [free throw] line."
Washington got away with high turnover totals in recent wins against Los Angeles and New York, but each of the Mystics' giveaways against the Fever helped to bury them.
The Mystics committed 20 turnovers, becoming another victim of Indiana's stifling defense, which has been the backbone of its success this season.
"Going into this game, we were saying, 'They're No. 1, and this will show us what we need to work on against them,' " point guard Lindsey Harding said. "Looking at it, I think we really could have gone out and beat them. We're upset about all the turnovers - mostly me - but those are all points that we can have. So we're going to learn from it and grow rather quickly."
The subtle differences between a veteran team and a young one still learning how to win were evident throughout. It was a tightly called contest that featured 48 fouls, and each team disagreed with a handful of whistles. But whereas the Fever just moved on to the next play, the Mystics occasionally let their frustration stick with them.
The subsequent result, whether a Washington turnover or a defensive lapse leading to an easy Indiana basket, was the type of mistake the Mystics couldn't afford against the Fever.
Indiana's starting lineup combined for all but four of its points. Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown each had 16, Tully Bevilaqua added 10 points and eight assists and All-Star Katie Douglas chipped in eight points for the Fever, who got back in the win column after their 11-game winning steak was snapped Sunday night.
"Indiana has had people in their core group for a long time, so they stick with them," Mystics coach Julie Plank said. "We're still working with our lineup and playing different people. We obviously play Alana Beard and Lindsey a lot, but other than that, people bring different things every day. It's not like we have a consistent five."
The Fever disrupted the Mystics' offense by throwing different looks at Harding and Beard, Washington's top two scorers. Indiana started by trapping them both whenever they touched the ball in Washington's halfcourt offense. Then they moved on to fullcourt pressure, which only exacerbated the Mystics' ball-control problems.
The Mystics knew the stifling defense was coming but found out facing it live is a lot more complex than simulating it in practice.
"I think we'll be ready for them a little bit better [next time we play] because we weren't ready for their pressure," Harding said. "Not a lot of teams pressure the way that they do. I was flustered a little bit - our whole team was at times - and I think we'll be a little bit more relaxed and prepared for that."
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