canada africa partner reservation Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese Is More Than Just a Match of Budding Stars (Video)

Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese Is More Than Just a Match of Budding Stars (Video)

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A career with high scores. A double-double.

Rookies Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese hit classic form in the days leading up to their first meeting in the WNBA. Clark, the Logo 3 heavyweight shooter, scored 30 points while shooting 42.8%, both career bests, in addition to a full stat line in a loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday. Reese, the double-double queen in college, recorded her first professional double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to Seattle that same night.

Clark’s Indiana Fever (1-8) hosts Reese’s Chicago Sky (3-3), which could have No. 3 overall draft pick Kamilla Cardoso back from injury to make her professional debut on Saturday (CBS, 12 p.m. ET ) in the first of four matchups this season. It’s also the opening match of the streamlined Commissioner’s Cup, a seasonal tournament with a $500,000 prize pool. Teams will each play their five conference opponents once; the team with the highest winning percentage in East and West will play in the fourth annual title game on June 25.

Clark and Reese are used to high-stakes competition. They met on the court four times in college (Reese’s teams were 3-1), but it’s the two most recent games in the NCAA Tournament that created a rivalry reminiscent of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese during the WNBA Draft held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15, 2024 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese during the WNBA Draft held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15, 2024 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese have certainly taken their place in the WNBA. (Photo by Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images) (Sportico via Getty Images)

Reese, a transfer from Maryland who played against Iowa twice as a freshman in the Big Ten, left college with a national championship. The world watched her point to her ring finger as the minutes ticked down for LSU’s victory over Iowa in the 2023 NCAA national championship game.

In the highly anticipated rematch in 2024, Clark’s 41 points led Iowa past LSU to the Final Four and ultimately to the program’s second consecutive title game. Clark tripled Iowa’s Final Four appearances and entered the pros fresh while blasting through all-time NCAA records considered untouchable.

Their legacies are intertwined for life. Their active position in the rookie class and their future in the WNBA history books are no different.

It’s likely one of them will be named the season’s first Rookie of the Month by the WNBA in the coming days. Clark leads all rookies in scoring average (17.6 ppg), assists (6.6 apg), efficiency (16.9) and turnovers (5.7). In one of her most interesting early stats, she ranks second in blocks (1.1 bpg) behind Cameron Brink (2.7) and ahead of Aaliyah Edwards (1.0). Brink is also a strong contender for the monthly prize.

Clark, a 6-foot-1 point guard, is already among the best in the league in assists, 3-pointers (2.7 makes per game ranks sixth) and free throws (4. 7 points per game ranks eighth). Her assist average currently ranks third all-time among rookies, behind Ticha Penicheiro (7.5) and Suzie McConnell Serio (6.4), each of whom played in the league’s second season. Through nine games, her scoring average is 11th all-time among rookies with a 55.4 true shooting percentage that ranks in the top 50 among active players.

Reese, a 6-foot-4 forward, leads all active rookies in rebounding (8.6) over Brink (5.4) and Clark (5.1). She is second in scoring average (11.0 ppg), fifth in assists (2.0 apg), sixth in turnovers (2.0 tpg) and third in efficiency (12.5, behind Brink’s 15.0).

She tops the league in offensive rebounding (4.5 per game, first place), 10th in overall rebounding (8.2) and 16th in free throws made (3.7). Her rebounding average currently ranks seventh all-time among rookies.

Despite their success in their fields, they started their professional careers with completely different expectations.

When Clark landed in Indianapolis as the city’s sensational superstar destined for professional greatness, the Fever became expected winners. Fans dreamed of Clark lighting up the scoreboard when she didn’t feed 2023 No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston in the post. Their thoughts were on a postseason berth for the first time since 2016.

In the view of some fans, Clark is the shining light of promise that extends to the entire WNBA. The outside pressure is as loud as that from Gainbridge Fieldhouse as their point guard goes into full Classic Clark mode and hits deep triples.

Reese bounced around the draft boards, starting as a second-round projection and moving into the first round as her senior year progressed. She was faced with the question of whether her playing would translate. Rebounding against professionals is different than at the collegiate level, and she has not yet developed a consistent mid-range or outside shot.

Chicago, rebuilding after a freefall following their improbable 2021 championship as a No. 6 seed, is the franchise in transition and drafted Reese No. 7 overall. The Sky hired first-year head coach Tereesa Weatherspoon, a Hall of Fame player, to launch a rebuild. They practice in a public recreation center while other teams build personalized practice facilities, and the front office was quiet in free agency a year after their core of superstars left for better, better markets. They were not expected to be a playoff contender.

That’s the problem with expectations. They are purely based on a strong faith. Reality is determined by a mix of individuals. Chicago and Reese have the upper hand on Saturday.

Indiana had the toughest start of any team in the league and it showed. Playing seven games in twelve days against the league’s top three teams (New York, Connecticut and Las Vegas) and the top MVP finalists (Breanna Stewart, Alyssa Thomas and A’ja Wilson) did not do the Fever any favors. They’ve struggled to put together a full game, looking sloppy and unable to take advantage of easy, early looks. Their only win came against Los Angeles, which drafted Brink second overall, and Indiana was unable to win the rematch days later.

Fever head coach Christie Sides noted again Thursday after a 103-88 loss to Seattle that so little practice time has negatively impacted her team’s ability to improve, especially on defense. The Fever gives up an average of 89.8 ppg, which is last in the league and 16 points behind the top-ranked Sun.

Indiana can approach the next five games as a fresh slate – a season within a season – which would be smart since their season is already 25% complete. The Fever play their second back-to-back – both including travel – against the Sky, at home on Saturday and in New York on Sunday. The Fever finally get a breather with four days of rest before Friday’s game in Washington and two days of rest between each of the final Commissioner’s Cup games.

Chicago’s schedule wasn’t much easier competitively. The Sky joined the Fever as the two franchises to face three of the top four teams in the first two weeks of the season. They split a two-game road trip to Dallas, upset runner-up New York and lost single-digit games to Connecticut and Seattle.

Their veteran-heavy starting lineup has more experience to rely on than Indiana. And they had practice time to put things together and rest. They have played two of their six games with one or fewer rest days; the Fever played seven of their nine that way.

Just like the meeting of superstars exactly two months ago, this matchup will come down to Indiana versus Chicago. The result could play a big role in playoff seeding, as the Nos. 7-10 teams in the standings at the end of the season are often within a game of each other. Yet everyone’s eyes will still be on Clark and Reese, two fierce competitors who found themselves in vastly different situations the last time they had a trophy on the line.