Caitlin Clark showed flashes of both stardom and struggle in her WNBA debut



It was a tale of two halves for Caitlin Clark in her Indiana Fever debut on Tuesday.

In her first official WNBA game, Clark and the Fever came up against one of the league’s elite defenses and struggled accordingly, falling by a final score of 92-71.

Clark herself had a roller coaster night. She started slow, scoring just seven points in the first half after missing her first five shots from the field. Her first basket did not come until the second quarter on a steal and fastbreak layup.

After that 0-5 start from the field, though, Clark made five of her final 10 shots from the field the rest of the way and scored 13 points in the second half, including three 3-pointers. Behind her 20 points, the Fever kept within reach of the Sun for most of the night before Connecticut’s late push blew the game open.

DiJonai Carrington earned the lion’s share of the credit for Clark’s rocky showing with her stellar defensive effort to go along with 16 points as well. Alyssa Thomas had 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to open the year with a triple-double for the Sun, and DeWanna Bonner tied Clark for game-high scoring honors with 20 points.

The night ended up being a mixed bag in terms of results for Clark. On top of her shooting woes overall after finishing 5-15 from the field, she struggled with turnovers all night long, tallying 10 on the evening to just three assists against a stifling Sun defense. Last season, the Sun ranked second in the league in defensive rating.

However, her 20 points were only three behind Tamika Catchings (23 points) for the franchise record for most points in a debut game. Her scoring — including her four total 3-pointers — also resulted in her ending the evening in elite company.

With a young Fever roster still trying to find their way together, Tuesday was a pretty tough opening test. And with back-to-back games against the Liberty, including Clark’s home opener on Thursday, it’s not going to get any easier in the short term for the Fever.

But while it was far from an optimal start for the Fever, there’s certainly plenty of room to grow. And Tuesday also showed that, even on nights when she has plenty of struggles, Clark can still find ways to produce at a high level.

In many ways, Tuesday was a microcosm of what we’ll likely see from Clark this season: road bumps sprinkled with flashes of potential along the way.

The challenge for her and Indiana moving forward in her rookie campaign is making her second-half production more consistent to avoid the ups and downs, hopefully resulting in more victories along the way.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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