Liberty-Fever highlights: Caitlin Clark first home game ends in loss

INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark and the up-and-coming Indiana Fever were no match for the New York Liberty and reigning MVP Breanna Stewart on Thursday. 

The Liberty routed the Fever 102-66 in Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, spoiling Clark’s first regular-season at home. Scoring was hard to come by for Clark, who finished with nine points (2-8 FG, 1-7 3PT, 4-4 FT), seven rebounds and 6 assists on the night. The No. 1 pick in April’s draft found herself in foul trouble early, and racked up five fouls and three turnovers.

“We knew this atmosphere was going to be wild and … we have that experience,” Stewart said postgame, adding that the Liberty “made it really difficult for (Clark) tonight. We had an awareness of where she was and we followed the game plan.”

Stewart recorded a double-double — 31 points, 10 rebounds and four assists — and Sabrina Ionescu added 14 points and seven rebounds. Fever’s Aliyah Boston had a team-high 12 points, 7 rebounds and two assists.

Here’s a recap of the Fever’s home opener against the Liberty:

Why Caitlin Clark’s slow start isn’t surprising

Caitlin Clark has not come in and instantly dominated the WNBA. That’s not surprising. This league is too talented, Lindsay Schnell writes.

Sabrina Ionescu has a fan in Caitlin Clark

INDIANAPOLIS — Sabrina Ionescu knows a thing or two about pressure Caitlin Clark is feeling these days.

The No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Ionescu also had record-setting college career and came into the league with a lot of fanfare. That hype was put on hold just two games into the 2020 season, when Ionescu badly sprained her left ankle and missed the rest of the season. When she came back in 2021, despite not being 100%, she recalls navigating “being the No. 1 pick, having the target on your back and then also not being (totally) healthy. It’s just tough.”

Clark and Ionescu go ‘way back,’ Ionescu said. She hosted Clark and her dad, Brent, on Clark’s official visit to Oregon and Clark purchased the Pac-12 Network to keep up with Ionescu’s play with the Ducks. Clark also praised the comfort of Ionescu’s signature sneaker, which she wears sometimes (both are Nike athletes). 

Ionescu empathizes with what Clark, perhaps the most heralded rookie to ever come into the league, is dealing with. And even if Clark has struggled a bit compared to college — she scored nine points in the 102-66 blowout loss to New York Thursday, shooting just 2-of-8 — Ionescu has tons of confidence in her.

“You’re always going to fight adversity, I think that’s part of everyone’s journey, to weather that storm and figure out what makes you, you,” Ionescu said. “She’s so young, she’s going to be able to learn and grow and times like this are kind of when you figure out what you’re really made of … I’m not the least big worried about what’s she’s going to be able accomplish in the league.” – Lindsay Schnell 

Final: Liberty 102, Fever 66

The Fever was dominated wire-to-wire by the Liberty, but the fourth quarter was extra ugly. New York outscored Indiana 35-10 in the fourth quarter of the game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Thursday. The final dagger of the night came when New York’s Ivana Dojkic knocked down a 27-foot three pointer with 11.1 seconds remaining in the game to go up 36 over the Fever. – Cydney Henderson

3Q: Liberty 67, Fever 56

INDIANAPOLIS — As we’ve seen so many times, a few buckets from Caitlin Clark, and her team is right back in this.

Clark scored seven points in the third quarter, helping pull the Fever within 13, 67-56. But Indiana didn’t get a shot off in time as the quarter ended, and the Fever continue to have no answer for Breanna Stewart, who leads all scorers with 28 points. (She also has nine rebounds.)

New York built as much as a 23-point lead in the third, but Indiana seems to have a little fire. Clark hit her first 3, which is huge for her confidence. Can she got on a little bit of a scoring run and include some of her signatures logo 3s in said run? – Lindsay Schnell 

Caitlin Clark in foul trouble

Caitlin Clark picked up another quick foul. The Fever rookie was called for a shooting foul against New York’s Breanna Stewart just 30-seconds into the third quarter with 9:31 remaining. Stewart converted both of her free throws to extend the Liberty’s lead to 50-33. Clark now has four fouls, but she remained on the court.

– Cydney Henderson

Halftime: Liberty 48, Fever 31

INDIANAPOLIS — In what should have been a battle of the bigs, Jonquel Jones vs. Aliyah Boston, it hasn’t exactly been a fair fight. Jones has owned the paint. She’s only scored six points, but she already has seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Boston, meanwhile, has eight points, but has mostly been a non-factor inside.

That’s a big part of why the Liberty have a 48-31 halftime lead.

A run midway through the second quarter helped Indiana cut the lead to four, and the Liberty responded by turning the ball over. But the Fever couldn’t capitalize on the other end, and the Liberty have been in full control of this game since.

And there’s more bad news for Indiana: Just before halftime, Caitlin Clark picked up her third foul.

Breanna Stewart leads all scorers with 20 points for New York. – Lindsay Schnell 

1Q: Liberty 25, Fever 16

INDIANAPOLIS — She’s only got two points, but already, Caitlin Clark’s home debut is going better than her league debut did two days ago.

Clark has three assists — two of them to Katie Lou Samuelson for 3s — and three rebounds, and looks considerably more comfortable through one quarter. Perhaps best of all, she only has one foul.

But it’s not going great for the Fever overall. New York has a 25-16 lead behind 11 points from Breanna Stewart, the reigning MVP. The Liberty are owning the battle in the paint, outscoring Indiana 16-8, and they’ve already forced the Fever into four turnovers (three of them by Clark). Also for the Liberty, Sabrina Ionescu already has nine points, three rebounds and an assist. – Lindsay Schnell 

Aliyah Boston, Jonquel Jones have dustup

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than seven minutes into the game, and it’s already getting chippy. 

As Indiana Aliyah Boston got fouled by New York’s Jonquel Jones, the two got tangled up and words — of the ‘not suitable for work’ variety — were exchanged. But a common foul was called, so no harm done, right? 

We’ll have to keep an eye on this matchup the rest of the game. – Lindsay Schnell 

What time is New York Liberty at Indiana Fever?  

Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever will play in front of their home fans for the first time this season when they face the New York Liberty on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The game is at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

How to watch Caitlin Clark tonight

The Liberty at Fever game will be televised on Amazon Prime.

How to stream New York Liberty at Indiana Fever 

The Liberty at Fever game will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime. The game also will be available on demand on the WNBA’s League Pass upon its conclusion. Fans can get League Pass by downloading the WNBA app.

Indiana Fever starting lineup

PG Erica Wheeler 
SG Caitlin Clark 
SF Katie Lou Samuelson 
PF NaLyssa Smith 
C Aliyah Boston 

New York Liberty starting lineup  

G Courtney Vandersloot
G Sabrina Ionescu
G/F Betnijah Laney-Hamilton
F Breanna Stewart
C Jonquel Jones

How many points did Caitlin Clark score last?

Clark finished with 20 points in her WNBA debut on Tuesday, but it took the rookie some time to get going. She shot just 5-of-15 from the field in the Fever’s 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun. The top pick in the 2024 draft also threw the ball away 10 times, a stat that’s sure to nag at her — and definitely not the type of double-double she wanted to record.

2024 WNBA rookies to watch  

 The 2024 WNBA rookie class is one of the most anticipated in history, led by none other than Caitlin Clark, the scoring phenom from Iowa who re-wrote the college record books.  But she’s not the only newcomer expected to make a big impact, and do so immediately. There hasn’t been this sort of attention and excitement around WNBA rookies since 2013, when Brittney Griner, Elena Della Donne and Skylar Diggins-Smith joined the league.   

To get you ready for the 2024 WNBA season that tips Tuesday, USA TODAY Sports’ Lindsay Schnell gives a primer on the nine rookies she thinks will have the biggest impact this season.  Read more from Schnell here.  

Even babies are gaga over Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark is inspiring girls all over the world, including one tiny tot. Ahead of her first home game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse vs. the New York Liberty on Thursday, Clark was spotted on the court playing with Aliya, the daughter of Fever forward Katie Lou Samuelson. 

Clark was also spotted signing autographs pregame. – Cydney Henderson

WNBA says all teams will charter by Tuesday 

INDIANAPOLIS — A WNBA spokesperson confirmed Thursday that starting Tuesday, May 21, all teams will charter to and from each game. That’s just one week after the 2024 season opened.

A celebratory fever swept through the league last week when commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced teams would begin chartering full-time — particularly from veterans who have been fighting to fly private for years.

Read the complete story here. 

Caitlin Clark wants to be like Steph Curry  

INDIANAPOLIS — The summer before her senior year at Iowa, Caitlin Clark made a point to bulk up, adding eight pounds of muscle to her thin, 6-foot frame. She knew the added weight would make a difference as the Hawkeyes slogged through another long season and she fought off multiple defenders each night on her way to leading the nation in scoring.  

But this summer she’s busy playing in the WNBA. That means any major changes to her body will have to wait a few months. When she does get in the weight room, Clark has a goal: Be like NBA superstar Stephen Curry.  

“Somebody I love to watch is Steph,” she said. “He’s strong. He might be a little small but he’s a really strong guy. That’ll definitely be something that’s important for me to evolve over the course of my pro career.”   

The physicality of the WNBA has been a major adjustment for Clark through just three games (two preseason and one regular season). She’s been bumped and bodied every second she’s on the floor, whether she has the ball or not, and is still getting used to that.  

Clark is officially listed at 152 pounds, one of the Fever’s smallest players; only 5-foot-7 Erica Wheeler weighs less, at 143 pounds. Adding another seven to 10 pounds of muscle would go a long way for Clark; the guards who have similar builds to her, 6-foot Grace Berger and 6-foot-1 Lexie Hull, check in at 160 and 155 pounds, respectively.  Clark knows getting stronger is a key to longevity in the pros but has accepted she’ll have to wait a few months to really attack that aspect of her game: “When this offseason comes, that will probably be one of my primary focuses, gaining more strength.” – Lindsay Schnell 

Caitlin Clark wild about the Indiana Zoo

INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark hasn’t been in Indianapolis long but already, she’s got a to-do list involving Circle City. 

Of course her top priorities are basketball-related. Clark, the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, wants to lift the Indiana Fever into the WNBA playoffs, and wouldn’t mind collecting some individual accolades along the way. She’s been open about her desire to be put on the 2024 Olympic team. 

On Thursday before she made her regular-season home debut, Clark told reporters that she’s excited, at some point, to visit the Indianapolis Zoo. 

Considered one of the top zoos in America, the Indianapolis Zoo annually holds a black-tie fundraiser known as “Zoobilation,” billed as the city’s “most anticipated event of the year.” And Indy’s newest resident is angling for an invite: “Maybe I’ll hit up Zoobilation, I heard they’re getting new chimpanzees.’. 

Told that her praise of the event is likely to lead to her being the guest of honor, Clark laughed before joking “yeah, Zoobilation is about to have an all-time high of people wanting to go,” a reference to how her presence tends to help set attendance records. 

Something else likely to set attendance records: Her play this summer at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the home of the Fever. – Lindsay Schnell 

Another WNBA team moves Indiana Fever game to bigger arena

Where Caitlin Clark goes, crowds follow. The Atlanta Dream joined the Washington Mystics and Las Vegas Aces in moving their upcoming games against Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever to bigger arenas to accommodate a larger crowd.

Clark, the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer and the Fever’s No. 1 overall draft pick, said she understands the significance of the hype surrounding her and vowed to continue to show up for fans across the league.

‘People are sacrificing a lot to spend money to get here or travel or to pay for their young daughter or son to come and watch us and support us… I understand it because I was that young girl,’ Clark said on Thursday. ‘I’m very aware of it and that’s why I didn’t miss a single game in college.’  – Cydney Henderson

10 bold predictions for WNBA season  

The 28th WNBA season tips off tonight, so it’s time to start thinking about what’s in store for women’s professional basketball the next few months.    

There’s never been more excitement around the women’s game. With a star-studded draft class, a team going for its third consecutive championship and a Summer Olympics that will help drum up interest in women’s basketball, the WNBA is headed into its most-anticipated season since the league debuted almost three decades ago.    

So what can we expect this summer? For starters, Caitlin Clark will lead the WNBA in assists and make the Olympic team. Read Lindsay Schnell’s story here. 

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