Caitlin Clark’s already on the rebound with Indiana Fever

Caitlin Clark
Credit: Brett Phelps/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Caitlin Clark was a walking, talking, 30-foot bombing, no-look-passing cheat code at Iowa.

That she was expected to be the same thing the moment she donned an Indiana Fever jersey was at once expected and unrealistic. There’s a reason Indiana earned the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft for two consecutive years, and it wasn’t because they were winning championships. Hell, they rarely won games.

The Fever’s 1-8 start was somewhat predictable and, if you knew anything about basketball, realistic. Clark, Aliyah Boston, Kelsey Mitchell, and NaLyssa Smith comprise a nice nucleus. But they were also playing the first nine games of their career as teammates.

Expecting them to go out there and beat veteran teams like Connecticut and New York, who have combined to hand Indiana five losses in the first 16 games of the season, was asking girls to go and do a woman’s job.

Caitlin Clark starting to catch up to WNBA

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Credit: Brett Phelps/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

But Clark and the Fever have shown signs lately of figuring things out. Wednesday night’s 88-81 home win over Washington was their third straight victory, one that showed the possibilities this team has with Clark – and some things they can still improve.

“You’re starting to see what this group can do,” she said after they upped their record to 6-10. “You can stack wins and it gets everyone confidence. It’s been team wins; no individual doing it all for us.”

Caitlin Clark on recent success

That being said, Clark’s fingerprints were all over the latest victory. She stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and four steals. And how she went about it told the tale of how she’s learning to play the professional game.

Clark torched the Mystics for 30 points on 15 shots in the teams’ first meeting on June 7, going 7 of 13 on 3-pointers. They weren’t going to let her get off the mark in the rematch. And to her credit, Clark didn’t try to force it.

Aside from one quickly-launched 3-ball in each half, Clark took what the defense gave her. She scored primarily off drives but attempted just 12 shots. Clark happily played the role of passer, getting Boston going early with a couple of transition feeds for layups that helped her score 22 points.

Clark said her rebounding made a difference in the first quarter. She grabbed six boards in the period and Indiana ran hard down the floor.

“I think we’re really good when I can get it off the rim and push in transition,” Clark said. “So I take a lot of pride in trying to chase it down off the rim and then really go. I think that led to a lot of easy baskets for Aliyah at the beginning of the game.”

Clark, continued

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Now comes the next test for Clark and Indiana. It’s just 2-7 on the road, but has to play the next five on foreign floors. Included on this trip is a much-ballyhooed rematch with Angel Reese and Chicago, plus games with Seattle and two-time WNBA champion Las Vegas.

Can this young team and its young superstar, who’s learning on the fly, develop the consistency and toughness it takes to earn road wins?

“We’ve all kept perspective, knowing we need to get better one step at a time,” Clark said.

Hubie Brown once said a young team had to learn to crawl before it could walk and learn to walk before it could run.

Clark and the Fever have reached walking stage. How quickly she and her teammates get to the running part of the episode might be the most interesting part of the WNBA season.    

Bucky Dent covers college basketball and the WNBA for Field Level Media

Related: Kevin Durant: Caitlin Clark shouldn’t be on women’s Team USA Olympic roster

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