May 11, 2022
Crystal Dangerfield lets her game do the talking
Indiana Fever collect first win
INDIANAPOLIS – Two weeks ago, Crystal Dangerfield had just returned to the United States after playing overseas in Israel during the WNBA offseason. She had a few days to prepare for Minnesota Lynx training camp, which she began participating in roughly 12 days ago.
Now, hardly more than a week later, Dangerfield is the Indiana Fever’s backup point guard; not Minnesota’s, Indiana’s. And Tuesday night, she played a critical role in helping the Fever defeat the Lynx and grab their first win of the season, finishing off a crazy two-week stretch for the 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
“It’s been a lot,” Dangerfield told The Next earlier this week before running through the many places she has been since late April. “I just want to play basketball.”
Dangerfield was drafted 16th overall by Minnesota in 2020 and won Rookie of the Year during that same season. Across two campaigns for the Lynx, the 24-year old averaged 11.1 points and 3.1 assists per game, proving to be a bright spot for a playoff squad.
But before this season began, Minnesota let her go. It was a salary cap-driven decision, head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve explained, and it was a tough call for the Lynx to make. “We just were in a place that we felt like there was a skillset that we were interested in,” Reeve shared of the team’s decision-making with regards to the point guard position.
The Indiana Fever benefitted from that surprising choice. With Bria Hartley and Danielle Robinson overseas to begin the campaign, the Fever scooped up Dangerfield on a hardship deal to fill out their point guard rotation. The UConn product debuted for the team on the day she was signed and has given Indiana quality minutes since.
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As fate would have it, Indiana would play Minnesota in the third game of the season for both teams. It was Dangerfield’s first opportunity in her career to play against the Lynx, and it was a chance for her to continue the growth she has shown since being drafted in 2020.
To some, a situation like this one could feel personal, and a game like this could be more meaningful. But not Crystal Dangerfield. She didn’t want to make it something more than it was — a basketball game.
“No comment,” Dangerfield said when asked if she was surprised to be waived by Minnesota. She was just focused on the task at hand. “I’m excited any time I get to play a basketball game.”
The third-year guard was hyper-focused and determined to aid Indiana on the quest to get their first win. And she helped in more ways than just on-court impact.
Dangerfield first entered the game with 1:07 to go in the first quarter and the Fever trailing by seven points, 19-12. Minnesota was on a 15-4 run; she was brought in to right the ship.
She didn’t check out until halftime. At that point, Indiana led Minnesota by nine points with a score of 48-39, meaning the Fever outscored the Lynx by 16 points in Dangerfield’s first half minutes. She didn’t need to comment on being waived, she was letting her game do the talking.
At the break, the Tennessee native had six points and four assists, including one absolutely beautiful pass to Alanna Smith in the pick-and-roll. She, along with a scorching hot Kelsey Mitchell, had guided the Fever to a gaudy 48-point half.
It was more of the same in the second half. Indiana let its lead slip away, mostly with Dangerfield on the sideline, and with 5:47 to go she checked back into the game. In that instance, the score was tied and Minnesota had all the momentum.
The reserve point guard turned the game on its head. She grabbed a huge offensive rebound before finding NaLyssa Smith for an alley-oop inside. On the very next possession, she buried a mid range jumper to expand the lead. In mere minutes, Dangerfield had flipped the script.
And she was about to write the ending. Fittingly, with 18.9 seconds to go and the Fever clinging to a four-point lead, Dangerfield went to the free throw line with a chance to put in the dagger free throws. She buried both, extending Indiana’s lead to 82-76. That went on to be the final score as Indiana notched their first win of the 2022 campaign.
“Crystal was really good tonight,” head coach Marianne Stanley said after the game, adding that her poise and her calm presence have been impressive. “She was terrific today, she really was.”
After the game, Dangerfield was mobbed by her Fever teammates. They were all celebrating together, both the fact that Indiana claimed their first win of the season and that Dangerfield had such a strong performance against her former team.
“It was special,” Dangerfield said of that moment. “They know what I’ve been through to start this season, and then that was our first win of the season. So it was all the feels.”
Once the scene was settled and the players exited the court, the stats became official — Dangerfield finished with ten points, six assists and zero turnovers. She controlled the game, and when she was on the floor, Indiana outscored Minnesota by 19 points. Her impact on the victory was enormous.
“It feels good to get in the win column,” Mitchell said.
Dangerfield’s impact went beyond the box score, though. Because she was with the Lynx so recently, she remembers how they play on both ends of the floor, so the guard was relied on for details. She shared information about coverages and sets, which came up big for the Fever in the win.
That knowledge was first crucial during shootaround prior to the game. “Oh no, that’s not how they guard that,” Stanley recalled Dangerfield explaining of the Lynx defense as the Fever ran through sets. Then, during the game, Dangerfield’s memory of Minnesota’s structure came up big again.
“It was very helpful because [Sylvia Fowles] is impossible to guard. So down the stretch, [Dangerfield] was saying, ‘This might come,’ and she was right every time,” Mitchell said.
“It was important to have CD in our corner today,” she added. And she’s spot on. Without Crystal Dangerfield, the Fever might be 0-3. But she let her game do the talking against her former team, and now Indiana has their first win of the campaign
Other Indiana Fever notes
-Guard Danielle Robinson and center Alaina Coates are stateside once again as their stints playing overseas have ended. It is not yet official when they will practice or play with the 2022 Fever for the first time. In an unfortunate bit of irony, those two players returning to the team will lead to the expiration of Dangerfield’s hardship contract, so if the red and blue want Dangerfield long-term, they will need to shuffle the roster.
-Robinson, as well as interim general manager Lin Dunn, celebrated a birthday on Tuesday, the same day that the Fever notched their first win. Stanley mentioned that I should put that in my story, so I gladly will. The team celebrated the pair of birthdays earlier that day at practice. Since these additional notes are full of coincidences, Dangerfield’s birthday is … today, May 11.