What we learned from Caitlin Clark's WNBA preseason debut as No. 1 overall pick scores 21 points for Fever

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Less than a minute into Friday night’s preseason game between the Indiana Fever and Dallas Wings, Caitlin Clark broke free on an out-of-bounds play, caught the ball well behind the arc and buried a 3-pointer. With that, the No. 1 overall pick’s WNBA career was officially off and running. 

Clark finished with 21 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and five turnovers on 6-of-15 shooting from the field in her first professional action, but the Fever fell to the Wings, 79-76. Of course, results don’t matter in the preseason, and this game was all about how Clark would fare against WNBA competition. 

“I thought we played really hard,” Clark said. “A great atmosphere for women’s basketball. I think it’s a good kickoff to the WNBA season.” 

Here’s what we learned from Clark’s preseason debut:

Shot creation not a problem

The first few minutes of the game were a personal highlight reel for Clark, as she made three 3-pointers and got fouled in the act of shooting another, which resulted in a quick 12 points. Early in the second quarter, she added another one, perhaps the best of the bunch — a nasty dribble combo into a stetp-back that completely shook Natasha Howard. 

While Clark went cold in the second half and finished 5-of-13 from behind the arc, she was able to create her own shot pretty much whenever she wanted, just as she could in college. The competition and intensity will increase once the real games start, but it’s already clear that her range and off-the-dribble shooting will translate. 

Scoring vs. playmaking

Clark led the country in assists at Iowa last season, and is an incredibly gifted playmaker, particularly in transition. Her primary responsibility for the Hawkeyes, though, was scoring, and she averaged 31.6 points on 22.7 shots per game. The Fever will need her to put the ball in the basket, but not quite at that volume, and finding the right balance between getting buckets and creating them for her teammates will take some time. 

We saw Clark’s vision on display numerous times throughout the game, and she was unlucky to finish with only two assists. We also saw her launch some quick shots that simply aren’t necessary at this level with better teammates. 

She wants the ball in big moments

Even though the final result doesn’t matter in a preseason game, what happens along the way does, and it was certainly helpful for both teams that the contest went down to the wire. No matter how much you practice, you can’t truly simulate end-of-game situations. 

As the two teams traded baskets down the stretch, Clark did not shy away from the moment. She wanted the ball and made some big plays, including a go-ahead 3 with just over five minutes to go and two free throws to take the lead again with 1:15 left.

Ultimately, she missed a 3-pointer and a layup (she may have gotten fouled) that could have given the Fever the lead in the final minute, and her desperation 3 at the buzzer to try and send it to overtime was not close. 

While the shots didn’t go down this time, the fact that she wanted the ball on those possessions in her very first WNBA game was a reminder of her extreme confidence. 

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