September 9, 2020
Julie Allemand’s career night not enough as Fever eliminated from playoffs
Despite a second-half push against the Aces, the Fever drop eighth straight and fall out of postseason contention
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SEPTEMBER 5: Julie Allemand #20 of the Indiana Fever handles the ball against the Connecticut Sun on September 5, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via GettyImages)
Fever come up short against Las Vegas, fall out of playoff contention
Ask Julie Allemand or Kelsey Mitchell, and either will rave about the potential of the Indiana Fever’s roster. It’s difficult to disagree, especially when the team generates runs similar to the 19-6 push they executed in the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss against the second-place Las Vegas Aces.
“The second half was really a great team effort, that’s just hard when you can’t do that for 40 minutes and for every game,” Allemand said.
Though the Fever showed fight in the second half, a 20-point first-half deficit proved too insurmountable to overcome. The loss was Indiana’s eighth in a row, the franchise’s longest losing streak since it dropped the first 10 games of the 2018 season.
The defeat officially eliminated Indiana from playoff contention, a tough reality to accept for a team that was 5-7 following a marquee victory against league-leading Seattle on August 20. It’s the franchise’s fourth consecutive season without a postseason appearance and fifth straight without a playoff victory.
“We lace up like everybody else and we know we’re in one of the toughest leagues there is so, it’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Mitchell. “It’s tough because we take a million steps forward and you hope you can take a million more, but sometime it just don’t work that way.”
Though ultimately not enough to keep the team’s postseason hopes alive, four players — Candice Dupree, Kelsey Mitchell, Julie Allemand, and Teaira McCowan — all scored at least 12 points on Tuesday. They did so with extreme efficiency, as the four combined to shoot 28-for-48 from the field. It was McCowan’s sixth-straight game in double-figure scoring.
“I’m happy for our players that this was a game they found some confidence and found the resilience that we’re asking of them, to believe in what they’re doing,” Stanley said. “We’re not happy about losing. It hurts losing, particularly given the comeback, but we competed and we had people playing together. The feeling of playing as a team was palpable, and that’s something we’d been striving for.”
In her first season with the Fever, Stanley has dealt with an abundance of adversity, between coaching in the league’s unprecedented bubble and enduring countless absences by key players, such as 2019 All-Star Point Guard Erica Wheeler.
Because of these extra hurdles, the Fever have struggled to string together four quarters of productive basketball throughout the whole season. Though they encountered similar consistency issues on Tuesday, the stretches in which the team battled back and trimmed a 20-point lead to two demonstrate just how competitive the team can be, and what propelled them to five wins in their first 12 games.
“Over time, I just hope that we can get it,” said Mitchell. “The proof is in the pudding, we’re really good when we can get things going… individually and then collectively, we can just piece it together on so many levels. I think over time we’ll get it.”
The Fever have two games remaining in the Bradenton bubble, Thursday against New York and Sunday vs. Minnesota. Though they won’t be competing for the postseason — and neither will the Liberty — Indiana may have the chance to play spoiler for the Lynx’ hopes to secure the second overall seed and a double-bye to the semifinals. Fever players have also emphasized that they’re still playing for pride and to improve for the future, no matter the status of their current postseason eligibility.
“All we can do at this point is get our chemistry going for the next year,” Mitchell said.
Julie Allemand thriving down the stretch of rookie season
When Julie Allemand — originally drafted 33rd overall by the Fever in 2016 — was deciding whether she would make the leap to play in the WNBA this season, she received a nudge from the newly-hired Coach Stanley.
“Quite frankly, [Allemand] wasn’t real sure about what to expect,” said Stanley. “I just tried to reassure her that she was ready for this moment and ready for this next step in her career.”
Allemand’s decision to play has panned out to be a wise one, as the 24-year-old ranks second in the WNBA in assists per game (5.7) and three-point percentage (48.2), while playing the third-most minutes per game (33.2). The Belgian standout poured in an early career-high 19 points against the Aces on Tuesday, including a franchise rookie record six three-pointers. Allemand has connected at least two long-balls in 12 out of 20 games this year.
“When you can shoot the ball, you just shoot the ball,” Allemand said. “When it’s like this you just need to keep shooting. It depends on so many things, but today was my night.”
The decision to make her American professional debut amid a tumultuous season — with the ongoing pandemic and fight for social justice cooccurring— could’ve presented several obstacles for an international first-year player. But Allemand has stepped in “seamlessly,” per Stanley, in place of Wheeler, distinguishing herself as a bona fide Rookie of the Year candidate.
“I think she’s grown in her game immensely,” Stanley said. “She’s done a magnificent job at point guard for us and I think she’s gotten better through just learning the style in the United States.”
Impeding Allemand’s path to obtaining the award may be the Fever’s prolonged losing skid, as team success tends to amplify individual credentials. Allemand has repeatedly expressed her confidence in hers as well as the team’s abilities, but also frustration that they did not reach their full potential this season.
“It’s just tough to lose like this,” Allemand said. “It’s really frustrating when you see what we can do on the court, what we can do together.”