The Indiana Fever have struggled since the WNBA returned from a monthlong break for the Rio Summer Olympics and pull into the Alamo City for a game against the San Antonio Stars on Tuesday sorely in need of a win to right the ship and help them secure a playoff spot.
The Fever (13-15) can't afford to falter against the WNBA's worst team. Indiana has now lost three of its last four, including an 88-81 road defeat at the hands of league-co-leader Los Angeles on Sunday.
Indiana has landed a spot in the playoffs for a record 11 consecutive postseasons and holds the sixth spot in the new-look WNBA playoffs, in which the top eight teams, regardless of conference, qualify for the postseason. But Phoenix is just a half-game back.
Indiana, usually so strong at the end of the season, has not been mentally sharp in its three post-Olympic losses, including in Los Angeles, where it was down by 20 in the fourth quarter before rallying to make things respectable. Erica Wheeler scored a career-high 20 points for the Fever in the loss.
"I was proud of how hard we worked, proud of how we fought," Fever coach Stephanie White said. "But in this league, you can't have breakdowns. We had a lot of mental breakdowns on defense, and L.A. didn't let us get anything clean on the offensive end."
The two teams have split their games this season, with Indiana winning 84-75 on June 17 in San Antonio and the Stars posting an 87-85 victory on July 1 in Indianapolis.
San Antonio comes into the game with a 6-22 record and is the only team in the league so far that has been eliminated from the playoffs.
The Stars have lost three straight and nine of their last 10 games, including a 97-73 home loss to Chicago on Sunday. San Antonio still has not won back-to-back games this season. It has six games left on the schedule to make something of a lost campaign.