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Fever’s Caitlin Clark Sees Much to ‘Learn’ from WNBA Debut Against Sun; Analyzing Her Performance

Published 05/15/2024, 9:49 AM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

Caitlin Clark’s highly anticipated WNBA debut was a mixed bag. She scored 20 points but also committed a league-record 10 turnovers in the Indiana Fever’s 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, shooting 5-15 from the floor, but specifically went 4-11 from 3-point range and 6-6 from the free throw line. 
Clark, the No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA draft, struggled to find her rhythm in the first half, going scoreless for nearly 15 minutes. She faced physical defense and committed several turnovers, including a few uncharacteristic mistakes. As a result the Fever trailed by 10 points at halftime.

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“I thought it was physical. I didn’t have the best start in the first half, getting into foul trouble and having to sit on the bench. When I came back in, I struggled to get into a flow,” Clark said after the match. “We had too many turnovers, which isn’t going to get the job done. There are a lot of things to learn from this game. We didn’t play well, but we managed to cut the lead to six in the third quarter, which is a positive.”
Clark demonstrated her ability to score with tough off-the-dribble and contested catch-and-shoot jumpers, but she struggled to penetrate the Sun’s defense and have success in the paint.
In the post game interview she further added, “Yeah, I think it’s about going day by day and trying to do your best, no matter what. Obviously, I would have liked to play better tonight, and I think all of us would say that. As a team, we would have liked to play better and shown a better product.”
The Sun’s ball screen coverages displayed a significant respect level for the threat Clark poses despite playing her first WNBA game, often playing up-to-touch with a mix of hedge-and-recover and double teams, placing an emphasis on her forcing difficult off-the-dribble jump shots. Clark’s shot selection was aggressive, with deep pull-ups and step-back threes, regardless of play type. The aggressive nature of these coverages contributed to turnover problems. She was being face-guarded and top-locked when playing off the ball, too, suggesting a significant respect for her impact as a catch-and-shoot player.
Talking about the number of turnovers, she added, Some of the turnovers were uncharacteristic, and their ball screen traps and hedges were effective. We didn’t do a good job of providing support and passing angles for our point guards, leading to turnovers. And not only did they force turnovers, but they also capitalized on them in transition, making great plays, finishing layups, and finding open teammates.”
When reflecting on her performance, Clark acknowledged the impact physicality had on execution. She went through a list of uncharacteristic miscues that led to turnovers that will need to be addressed by her and the team going forward.
“I think the physicality was a factor, and also some uncharacteristic mistakes, like traveling with the ball, dribbling off my foot, and turning it over on inbounds passes,” Clark acknowledged. “We need to be crisper in those situations, as they’re essentially giving the other team the ball.”
Fever coach Christie Sides echoed Clark’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of supporting their star player and reducing turnovers.
 Sides said, “We got to help her out, better job coming back to the ball. We have to do a better job getting someone back to the ball.”
After halftime, Clark felt she was more settled into the game. From her perspective, the Fever did a better job of moving the ball, getting into their half-court actions more, and being intentional about attacking mismatches to create advantages. Despite the challenges, Clark remained optimistic, emphasizing the importance of learning from mistakes and moving forward.
Looking ahead, Clark is optimistic about the short-term outlook she faces while going through the adjustment process amidst her initial exposure to the WNBA level. In terms of priorities entering Thursday’s matchup against the New York Liberty, Indiana must get assist totals up and working the ball inside to the post would help. With more time to build chemistry, she’s confident the results will follow.
She also mentioned how it will take some time for her to get comfortable to the style of play. “I took a little while to settle into the game, but I thought the second half was better, minus some turnovers. I’m still getting more comfortable, and that will come with experience and playing with my teammates. The more games I play, the more comfortable I’ll get. We definitely need to improve our assists, and I can do a better job of finding my post players too,” she said.
Clark’s debut was a milestone moment in her career, marking the beginning of an exciting journey in the WNBA. Her dedication to learning from mistakes and improving her game is a promising sign for the Fever’s future. Clark, like many Fever fans was disappointed by the defeat, but she is eager to move on and deliver in their next game.

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“I’m obviously disappointed, and nobody likes to lose. But I don’t think beating yourself up over one game is helpful. I think we need to learn from it and move on. Nobody on this team can afford to dwell on their mistakes, and I’m excited to get back home for our home opener on Thursday,” Clark said.

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The Fever will look to bounce back in their next game against the New York Liberty, where Clark will face another challenging opponent in her home debut. Clark will hope for a better showing and try to ensure her home debut gets off to the perfect start.

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Written by:

Grant Afseth

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One take at a time

Grant Afseth is a basketball reporter who primarily covers the NBA and WNBA for EssentiallySports. With experience in reporting about the Indiana Pacers for the Kokomo Tribune of CNHI Sports, his resume also boasts the coverage around the Dallas Mavericks for the DallasBasketball, but not limited to it. With an advanced understanding of the league’s X's & O's along with interviewing players and coaches, Grant puts an insightful spin on how he approaches sports journalism.
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Edited by:

Sherjeel Malik