WASHINGTON -- The Mystics entered a home-and-home series against Indiana with a better record. By percentage points, they can still make that claim, but the Fever played the two games with the relentless winning style of a defending WNBA champion.
Tamika Catchings had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the surging Indiana Fever swept the Washington Mystics with a 65-52 win on Sunday.
Shavonte Zellous scored 12 points for the Fever (7-8), who have won six of seven games after suffering a seven-game losing streak. Indiana outscored Washington 22-7 in the second quarter to open a double figure lead and only briefly let the margin slip back into single digits, never closer than seven points.
The Fever closed the first half on 12-1 run, including the final seven points, and Zellous opened the third quarter with two free throws for a 32-16 lead. Catchings' free throws later in the quarter capped an 8-0 spurt as Indiana led 42-24 and 49-36 entering the fourth quarter.
"We got a little hot there in the second," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "Our defense went up a notch in the second quarter, we were knocking down shots."
Zellous scored 16 points in Indiana's 77-70 home win over the Mystics on Friday. Washington entered the rematch with a three-game home winning streak.
Monique Currie had 15 points for the Mystics (8-9), who scored their fewest points this season in any game, half and quarter. Washington missed 11 of 13 shots in the second quarter and finished 30.9 percent overall from the floor.
"I was just embarrassed by the way we played," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "The reason they won their championship last year is they outwork everybody all the time. That's what they did."
Though both teams shot poorly throughout, Indiana grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to Washington's four and held a 38-29 advantage on the boards.
"They're willing to chase down their missed shots and go get an extra possession," Washington's frustrated coach said. "We missed 38 shots tonight and got four offensive rebounds. That's terrible. You should never play that way."
Crystal Langhorne, Washington's leading scorer, did not score and only played sporadically in the second half.
Asked about her limited minutes, Thibault said of Langhorne, "She earned that."
The teams got off to an unsightly offensive start, tying the WNBA record for fewest combined points in the first quarter with 17. Both sides missed their initial five shots from the field and were 1 for 21 before Briann January's 3-pointer 5:55 into the game gave Indiana its first points.
"That first quarter, I was like `if this whole game goes like this, it's terrible," Catchings said.
The Fever shot 3 for 21 (14.3 percent) and trailed 9-8 after the opening period, but never trailed after scoring the first six points of the second quarter.
"I feel like our defense and rebounding has been huge for us right now," Catchings said. "That's something we've been known for over the years, our defensive tenacity."
Tayler Hill's 3-pointer cut Indiana's lead to 45-36, but Catchings and Zellous ended the third quarter with back-to-back baskets. After averaging nine points over her last three games, Catchings scored nine in the third quarter against Washington and finished 9 of 18 from the field.
Indiana holds a 23-7 all-time series lead. The Mystics won the first matchup this season, 64-60 in Washington on June 16.
Injuries hampered the Fever early in the season. Eight different players sat out at least one game and four-time All-Star Katie Douglas has missed the last 13 games with a back injury. The difference now is that those asked to step in are effectively doing so.
"Where we are better is our subs are better than the last time we were here," Dunn said. "They've played all through this adversity, they've played quality minutes and when they go in, a lot doesn't drop off."
Indiana returns home to face New York on Tuesday. Washington hosts Chicago on Wednesday.
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