Caitlin Clark stars in WNBA preseason debut as Indiana Fever falls to Dallas Wings

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The Caitlin Clark era is off to a rough start.

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

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

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

The triples kept flowing in the first half. Clark matched the Wings’ total with four 3-pointers of his own before the break, including one that required dazzling footwork against Natasha Howard, a former Defensive Player of the Year. Howard was switched to Clark at the rim and the No. 1 pick created just enough space with a hesitant dribble and then a step back to his left to clear the jumper.

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

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Still, there was much to improve compared to Friday evening’s performance. Clark finished with a game-high five turnovers and was whistled for four fouls. She said afterwards that the Fever could have done a better job of attacking and that there is room to understand more about when to make the transition and when to slow down the pace of the game. She also said the team’s passing could have been better.

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

“This is a process, right? We just started practice on Sunday,” Fever coach Christie Sides said. “We are still learning each other. She worked really hard to get some shots that she doesn’t have to work so hard 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 only triple of the match, although 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 scheduled for Friday, May 10.

Reese finishes one rebound shy of a double-double in his debut

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

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With 3:49 to play before halftime, Reese noticed Cardoso cutting to the basket for a layup, a hoop that 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 ten free throws and made nine. She also added a game-high nine rebounds. Cardoso, the No. 3 pick in last April’s draft, came off the bench in Chicago 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 offense, making just one of her seven shot attempts in 13 minutes of action.

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(Photos: Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

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