Caitlin Clark shines in WNBA preseason debut


The Caitlin Clark era is off to a raucous start.

In front of a sold-out crowd in Dallas for her first WNBA game, albeit preseason action, Clark was just as impactful as she was the past four years at Iowa (perhaps in part because of all of the familiar Big Ten foes on the court). Although the Indiana Fever lost to the Dallas Wings 79-76, with Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale nailing a go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds to play, Clark finished with a team-high 21 points and made five 3-pointers.

“I thought we played really hard. Just a great atmosphere for women’s basketball,” Clark said postgame on the Bally Sports broadcast. “I think it’s a good kickoff to the WNBA season.”

Clark started alongside Erica Wheeler, which allowed the former Iowa star to play both on and off the ball. In her first possession as the de facto point guard, she delivered a pitch-perfect outlet pass to forward NaLyssa Smith the full length of the court. After Smith’s attempt at the rim was blocked, Clark went into shooting guard mode, hitting a deep 3-pointer off the inbounds for her first professional points.

The triples kept flowing in the first half. Clark equaled the Wings’ total, with four 3-pointers of her own before intermission, including one that required dazzling footwork against Natasha Howard, a former Defensive Player of the Year. Howard got switched onto Clark on the perimeter, and the No. 1 pick created just enough space with a hesitation dribble and then a step back to her left to drain the jumper.

Clark didn’t venture much towards the rim early, but her shooting was WNBA-ready, including one pull-up midrange shot near the end of the second quarter. In the first half, Clark had 16 points, leading both teams.

Still, there was much to improve on from Friday night’s performance. Clark finished with a game-high five turnovers, and was whistled for four fouls. She said afterward the Fever could have gotten into their offense better and there is room to understand more about when to push in transition and when to slow down the game’s pace. She also said the team’s passing could have been better.

“Overall, a lot to learn from,” Clark said. “These are good learning experiences for us. This doesn’t count. Go back and watch the film, film doesn’t lie and learn from that.”

“This is a process, right? We just started practicing on Sunday,” Fever coach Christie Sides said. “We’re still learning each other. She worked really hard to get some shots that she doesn’t need to work so hard for anymore.”

Last year’s Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston finished with eight points and eight rebounds in her preseason debut, while Smith, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, finished with 20 points and six boards. Fellow Fever rookie Celeste Taylor finished with five rebounds in 11 minutes.

Ogunbowale’s 3-pointer was her lone made triple of the game, though she finished with 19 points. Rookie guard Jaelyn Brown led the Wings with 21 points.

Jacy Sheldon, the No. 5 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, played 13 minutes off the Wings bench and recorded two assists.

The Fever’s second, and final, preseason game is set for Friday, May 10.

Reese finishes one rebound shy of double-double in debut

Former LSU star Angel Reese also made her preseason debut on Friday night, as the Chicago Sky faced off against the Minnesota Lynx. Reese started the contest, and had a layup attempted blocked by star Minnesota forward Napheesa Collier only three minutes into the game. Though Reese didn’t score in the first quarter, she settled in during the second quarter, both getting on the scoresheet and also showing offensive chemistry with center Kamilla Cardoso.

With 3:49 to play before halftime, Reese found Cardoso cutting to the basket for a lay-up, a hoop which Chicago forward Brianna Turner said looked even better in person.

Chicago lost 92-81, but Reese finished with 13 points, and was aggressive around the rim. She attempted 10 free throws and made nine. She also added a game-high nine rebounds. Cardoso, the No. 3 pick in this past April’s draft, came off the Chicago bench and finished with six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes of action.

Former Utah star Alissa Pili made her preseason debut for the Lynx, but struggled on the offensive end, making only one of her seven shot attempts in 13 minutes of action.

Required reading

(Photos: Cooper Neill / NBAE via Getty Images)





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