Erica Wheeler delivered a stellar performance to lead her team to a win at the WNBA All-Star Game last weekend. Now, she hopes to help the Indiana Fever avoid a single-season, club-record ninth straight home loss Wednesday night against the Atlanta Dream in a matchup of teams that have dropped 11 consecutive games between them.
Making her All-Star debut, Wheeler hit seven 3-pointers and scored a game-25 points to help Team (A'ja) Wilson beat Team (Elena) Delle Donne 129-126 on Saturday in Las Vegas. The effort earned the Indiana guard game MVP honors and resulted in an emotional response when accepting the trophy as the first undrafted player in the history of the "W" to claim that award.
"I don't have a shoe contract. I don't have no contracts besides the WNBA," Wheeler, averaging a career-high 12.3 points in her fifth season, told the league's official website. "So, for me, it was to make my mark, and I think I did that because nobody is looking at me. I'm a no-name. I think I left (Saturday) with a name that everybody can remember."
Certainly, Wheeler's opponents knew about her talents this season, especially while averaging 16.3 points over the last three games. Unfortunately, Indiana (6-15) is amid a season-high six-game losing streak and, according to the Fever's annals, franchise record-tying, eight-game home slide.
The Fever entered the break with a 95-77 loss at Phoenix for its 10th loss in 11 games. Wheeler scored 18 points in that contest, but had just nine during an 88-78 loss at Atlanta on June 19.
While things have been rough for Indiana, it still sits ahead of the Dream (5-15) in the league standings. Looking to avoid a season-high sixth consecutive defeat, Atlanta has lost the last three game by an average of 23 points.
The Dream appeared in position to end their current skid right before the break, but were outscored 32-15 in the fourth quarter by Los Angeles en route to a 78-66 home defeat.
"With 14 games left, we know that this first week out of the gate is really important," coach Nicki Collen told the Dream's official website. "If we're gonna make a run, we've got to make it right away. I just want to see us compete. I want to see kinda that team that we've built that's more than capable of winning games in this league."
Leading scorer Tiffany Hayes (13.6 points per game) had 28 points against Indiana in the first meeting for Atlanta, which could see recently acquired forward Alaina Coates make her debut with the team in this contest.