Caitlin Clark's most complete game as a rookie takes down Angel Reese and Sky

INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark caught the ball on the run, ducked around an Aliyah Boston screen as Boston simultaneously tossed her the ball, took one dribble and fired away. As the ball traveled toward the rim, the Indiana Fever rookie held her follow-through, and the crowd held its breath.

“They’re just waiting for it,” Clark said Sunday.

Waiting for her to ignite the flamethrower attached to her right arm.

After nailing a 30-footer to give Indiana a seven-point lead with just over three minutes left, Clark — whose prolific long-range shooting has made her one of the world’s most popular athletes — roared toward the sold-out crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. It roared back in approval.

“They want to give that to you,” Clark said of the fans. “I thought we gave them a lot of those moments.”

The Fever’s 91-83 victory over the Chicago Sky marked Indiana’s second straight win against its Midwest rival and the first time this season the Fever have won back-to-back games. Clark was the biggest catalyst, producing the best all-around game of her budding WNBA career. The No. 1 pick poured in a game-high 23 points with three 3-pointers to go along with a game-high nine assists, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Four players have posted that stat line in WNBA history, according to Across the Timeline. Clark is the only rookie.

She scored 7 points in the first quarter alone, three days after scoring that total in Indiana’s win over the Atlanta Dream. Following that game, Clark went back to the court, still wearing her game shorts, and took extra shots in a mostly empty arena.

On Sunday, she bounced back in front of another packed house, making all seven of her 2-point attempts, while also playing arguably her stingiest defense of the season.

“Caitlin Clark is a phenomenal player, and the more she’s in the league … she’s getting more and more comfortable,” Fever coach Christie Sides said. “She’s getting more and more comfortable with her teammates. She spent four years with her Iowa teammates, and they did great things. They had some great team chemistry, and I think she’s having those moments with her new teammates.”

Sunday’s performance felt like a step forward for the Fever and for Clark. The rookie’s imprint was all over the game, and not even a flagrant foul from Chicago’s Angel Reese knocked her off course. As Clark drove to the basket late in the third quarter, Reese tried to block her shot but missed and whacked Clark across the head. After Clark crashed to floor and into the stanchion, she simply readjusted her headband while her teammates helped her up.

From her perspective, there was no time to whine. There was only time to win.

“What’s going through my mind is, I need to make these two free throws,” Clark said. “That’s all I’m thinking about. Just a part of basketball. It is what it is. (Reese is) just trying to make a play on the ball and get the block.”

Unfazed by Reese’s hard foul, Clark continued dominating. In addition to steering the offense, she also stepped up defensively after being picked on frequently throughout her first WNBA season. With just under six minutes left in the game, Clark was matched up against Marina Mabrey. Chicago’s leading scorer tried to use a Kamilla Cardoso screen to rid herself of Clark, but instead of going under the pick, Clark fought over it and blocked what Mabrey thought would be an open 3-pointer. Clark then grabbed the loose ball, headed the other way and ran a textbook pick-and-roll with Boston, highlighted by Clark’s pinpoint pocket pass to Boston for a layup.

Of Clark’s nine assists, four went to Boston. Their budding chemistry is exactly what Fever GM Lin Dunn envisioned when she compared the potential of her back-to-back No. 1 picks to the guard-post dominance of 2001 and 2002 consecutive top picks Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. That all-time great duo led the Storm to two championships.



Auerbach: Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese providing fuel for a long-standing WNBA rivalry

“I think from the first game to now, we’ve just been able to get a great feel of playing with each other,” Boston said. “Knowing where I’m gonna be, knowing where she’s gonna be. … I think we’re really doing a good job of building that.”

Boston tallied 19 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a game-high five blocks in Indiana’s Father’s Day victory. Kelsey Mitchell, whose father died in March, played “in honor of him” and delivered 17 points. NaLyssa Smith added 15 points and seven rebounds.

Katie Lou Samuelson nailed three 3-pointers off the bench, including one just before the halftime buzzer. Clark made that play happen by breaking down the defense, getting into the lane and then kicking it out to Samuelson for one of the Fever’s season-high 23 assists. Sides commended the rookie for her decision-making against the Sky, but beyond what Indiana did offensively, Sides said she was most proud of how Clark and her team responded defensively after Chicago dominated with 12 offensive rebounds in the first half.

“I really went in on them at halftime,” Sides said. “We gave up one offensive rebound the whole second half.”

The Fever have won three of their last four games, though Sides emphasized that Indiana is far from a finished product. The signs of a new team are still there, evidenced by a brief moment of frustration between Clark and Erica Wheeler at the end of the first quarter. After Clark passed it to Wheeler, the veteran failed to get a shot off in the final seconds. Clark slapped her hands down to her side in exasperation, but before Sides let Clark walk back to the huddle, she grabbed Clark and Wheeler by their arms, brought them together and implored them to hash it out as they both made their way to bench. It’s the lessons learned in those tense moments, Sides believes, that ultimately lead to the more rewarding ones.

“Obviously, it’s been hard,” Clark said. “It’s been a tough stretch at the beginning, just with the amount of games we played and the limited practices (we’ve had) as I’m trying to get to know my teammates and my coaching staff. But I feel like I have gotten more comfortable over the course of these games. … I already feel like we’ve grown so much.”

(Photo of Caitlin Clark: Ron Hoskins / NBAE via Getty Images)

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