Young Fever bring fight to Phoenix as Mercury falter in Caitlin Clark’s Valley debut

Jun 30, 2024, 2:46 PM | Updated: 3:41 pm

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi with Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark during a game on June 30...

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi with Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark during a game on June 30, 2024. (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

The Phoenix Mercury’s first game hosting rookie sensation Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever has been circled on calendars for months, evidenced by a sellout crowd of over 17,000.

Phoenix legend Diana Taurasi told ESPN on April 6 “reality is coming” for Clark. Coming into the game, Taurasi’s reality included nearly 100 more games played than the entire Indiana starting lineup combined. Clark’s was laying claim to the second-most made 3s in the WNBA.

But on Sunday at Footprint Center, the reality was Indiana made the necessary plays to win the game 88-82, and the Mercury didn’t.

Phoenix started the game on a 14-2 run that prompted a timeout from Fever coach Christie Sides. Mercury coach Nate Tibbetts said pregame the X-Factor home atmosphere has been key for his group and the early run activated that home crowd.

Clark missed two shots and turned the ball over three times as she settled into a much better game the rest of the way, hitting a couple deep 3s.

Brittney Griner and Taurasi each had 13 points in the first half to lead all scorers while Clark’s seven points, five rebounds and four assists were marred by five first-half turnovers. No other player had more than one.

Indiana, however, brought some fight to the much more veteran group and would not go away. The first half included five technical fouls and one flagrant. Another flagrant came with just over two minutes left in the game. Four technical fouls came from a second-quarter scuffle, as the two teams had to be separated with Indiana nipping at Phoenix’s heels.

Indiana picked up its first lead of the game late in the third quarter during a 17-0 run that featured five assists from Clark. She also hit a deep 3 right before the run started.

In the fourth, an 8-0 Phoenix run saw the Mercury pull back ahead. Taurasi had told ESPN “it’s a game of runs” before the quarter began, proving her own words right.

But in clutchtime when it felt like the team with the ball last would win, it was a miscommunication between Griner and Natasha Cloud that led to a turnover, hammering the nail into Phoenix’s coffin.

Clark finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists, one rebound away from becoming the first rookie with a triple-double in WNBA history.

Griner finished with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting to lead all scorers.

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