canada africa partner reservation Caitlin Clark’s debut and highlights from WNBA opening night

Caitlin Clark’s debut and highlights from WNBA opening night

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The 2024 WNBA season is here. Caitlin Clark’s professional era has officially arrived. And the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty opened with wins on Tuesday.

Clark and the Indiana Fever tipped the season off on the road, falling 92-71 at Connecticut as Alyssa Thomas, the Sun’s perennial MVP candidate, posted a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.

Clark, the No. 1 pick in April’s WNBA draft and NCAA Division I’s all-time leading scorer, finished with 20 points, three assists and two steals in her WNBA debut. But she struggled much of the night, committing 10 turnovers and shooting 5-for-15 from the field and 4-for-11 on 3-pointers. At halftime, she had five turnovers and seven points.

New York, last season’s runner-up, used a big fourth quarter to pull off an 85-80 win over the Washington Mystics. Jonquel Jones led the way with 25 points, and teammate Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 20.

The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces host the Phoenix Mercury (live on ESPN2) and the Seattle Storm host the Minnesota Lynx to wrap up opening night. But here are early takeaways.

After a slow start, Clark got going late in the game but struggled overall. What areas was she most exposed to? And what was most promising about her professional debut?

It says something about how exaggerated the expectations are for Clark that she had 20 points for the team in her professional debut, but the performance will be defined by many as a ‘struggle’, especially because of the turnovers. That’s to be expected for any rookie point guard, though, given how much faster and experienced the defense is at this level.

Still, the turnover numbers have to bother Clark the most in her first game, as they hindered potential scoring opportunities for the Fever. Connecticut guard DiJonai Carrington made things difficult for Clark, who had eight of her turnovers against the fourth-year pro. Clark was also 2 of 10 shots against Carrington.

Still, Clark didn’t seem to lose confidence or aggression. That’s the key. Clark – who played a team-high 31 minutes – knew there would be a learning curve because everything happens very quickly with young players, especially for someone who will handle the ball as much as possible. Clark will figure out how to better calibrate her demise.

It’s only one game, but what are the realistic expectations for the Fever?

It worked best for Indiana in the second and third quarters, where they were able to hold on against Connecticut. The Sun pulled away in the fourth quarter and that is something Fever coach Christie Sides will emphasize for her team.

There were some real positives in the way the Fever connected when they executed their offense well – but with 25 turnovers, there were times when that just didn’t happen.

Realistically, they showed they could perform at a high level against an experienced side expected to finish in the top four of the league. The Fever have a chance to hold their own against teams that aren’t quite on the Sun’s level.

What stood out about the Connecticut Sun?

Both the Sun (48.5%) and Fever (48.0%) shot about the same percentage from the field, but Connecticut conceded 16 more shots and had 10 fewer turnovers. And while we’ve come to expect the ageless DeWanna Bonner (20 points, six rebounds) and Thomas to play well every game, it’s also great for the Sun to see the progress of Tyasha Harris and Carrington in the backcourt. They combined to score 32 points, plus Sun reserve guard Rachel Banham had 10. Add Carrington’s offense Tuesday to her exceptional job on defense, and she really stood out on opening night.

And then there was the return of Brionna Jones, who suffered an Achilles injury last June. She had eight points and three rebounds, and the Sun is happy to have her back.

New York won the opener but needed a fourth-quarter rally. What worked for the Liberty?

Voepel: The Liberty benefited from a stronger defensive performance in the fourth quarter, but also from Jonquel Jones and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton actually coming to play. They combined for 45 points and 12 rebounds and were at the forefront of the Liberty defense.

Last year, Jones wasn’t fully healthy at the start of the season and it took a while for her to get to full speed. This year she is now ready.

“Where I was last year versus where I am this year — I don’t take it for granted,” said Jones, who is in her second season in New York. “I appreciate these moments and love to go out and play hard.”

It wasn’t necessarily a strong offensive debut for Breanna Stewart, who was 3 of 9 from the field for 8 points, but she had 8 rebounds.

“It wasn’t a pretty game and I thought Washington threw a lot at us,” New York coach Sandy Brondello said. “We found a rhythm.”

For Washington, Shakira Austin looked strong after being limited to 19 games last season due to injury. She had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. She chastised herself for missing a late putback, but there was a lot the Mystics liked about the way Austin played.

“It’s great just to be there,” Austin said. “I was pretty balanced and felt like I was playing to my strengths. This year I wanted to expand on that.”

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