Kelsey Mitchell of the Indiana Fever broke a WNBA record with nine 3-pointers and set a franchise record with 38 points on Sunday afternoon to pace the Fever to a 104-76 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Indianapolis on the final day of the regular season.
Mitchell scored early and often, starting for the first time in 15 games and tying a WNBA record with seven 3-pointers in the first half. In fact, she tied the franchise record for 3-pointers made in a single game during the first half, alone, and her 30 points by halftime were already a career scoring high.
Connecticut (23-12) rested their starters in the second half in preparation for the WNBA playoffs. The Sun finished second in the league and will receive a bye into the best-of-5 semifinals beginning Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“Indiana was great. Our only goal tonight was to get out injury free, to be ready for the (semifinals),” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “We’ve talked about doing things that we do well. Didn’t think we did some of those things. But hats off to them. Obviously, they’re playing for a different reason than we’re playing. And ultimately the only thing that matters for us tonight was to get out injury free and we did. So, know we’re in the semis.”
Brionna Jones led the Sun with a season-high 14 points and a career-best 10 rebounds while Jonquel Jones scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen, Courtney Williams and Bria Holmes scored eight points each for Connecticut.
“I think we came out with good energy,” Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones. “I think Kelsey (Mitchell) played an awesome game. She was just on fire.
“And so it was tough, but ultimately I think we came out kind of being a little more conservative with everything that’s coming up too, with this game not really changing our standings whether we win or lose. So I think that’s what it was too,” Jonquel Jones said.
The Sun will face the highest remaining seed after the first two rounds of the WNBA playoffs. Both rounds are single-elimination games. If the seedings hold, the Sun would face No. 3 Los Angeles (22-12).
Miller said he consulted with WNBA coaches and college coaches on how to keep sharp during a layoff of nine days. The Sun will practice Wednesday and Thursday and take a few days off before getting back to work next Sunday and Monday.
Jonquel Jones finished the regular season leading the league with an average of 9.7 rebounds per game and tied for first with Phoenix’s Brittney Griner in blocks per game with an average of 2.0.
The Fever delighted its crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse by leaping to a 23-20 lead after one quarter and a 48-39 advantage at intermission on the strength of Mitchell’s performance beyond the arc. Mitchell opened the contest shooting 6-of-7 overall and 4-of-5 from long distance, finishing the opening quarter with 16 points to tie another franchise record.
Ten minutes later, she had collected another 14 points in the second quarter with another three treys. She sat one 3-point basket shy of the WNBA single-game mark while leaving the court at halftime.
Mitchell was pleased to finish the season on a strong note – even with Indiana (13-21) missing the WNBA playoffs – two games behind No. 8 Phoenix (15-19).
“I just felt like it’s any other game,” she said. “Obviously, I’m a competitor. So, my goal is always to try to win and put my team in a position to win. I just try to play my role and play my role as best as possible.”
NOTES: The Fever scored 15 three-pointers which is the most scored on the Sun this season. Previously, the most three-pointers scored against the Sun this season was 13 by the Washington Mystics on June 29. … The Sun started the same five starters in every game this year — Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas, Williams and Jonquel Jones. They are just the fourth team in WNBA history to go an entire season with the same starters and just the second to do so in a 34-game season. … The Sun won 20 or more games for the third consecutive season. … Connecticut’s record of 23-11 was the best under Miller in his fourth season with the Sun. … With eight steals on the afternoon, Connecticut now has 303 total steals this season which sets the new single-season team record. This bests the previous record of 299 set in 2004, the first year the Sun made it to the WNBA Finals.
First round (single-elimination)
Wednesday, Sept. 11
No. 8 Phoenix (15-19) at No. 5 Chicago (20-14)
No. 7 Minnesota (18-16) at No. 6 Seattle (18-16)
Second round (single-elimination)
Sunday, Sept. 15
Lowest seeded winner at No. 3 Los Angeles (22-12)
Highest-seeded winner at No. 4 Las Vegas (21-13)
Lowest-seeded winner at No. 1 Washington (26-8)
Highest-seeded winner at No. 2 Connecticut (23-11)
Game 1: Tuesday, Sept. 17
Game 2: Thursday, Sept. 19
Game 3: Sunday, Sept. 22
Game 4: Tuesday, Sept. 24, if necessary
Game 5: Thursday, Sept. 26, if necessary
WNBA finals (Best-of-5)
Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 29
Game 2: Tuesday, Oct. 1
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 6
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 8, if necessary
Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 10, if necessary