Caitlin Clark’s debut and takeaways from WNBA’s opening night

The 2024 WNBA season is right here. Caitlin Clark’s professional period is formally underway. And the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Solar, New York Liberty and Minnesota Lynx opened with victories Tuesday.

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

Clark, the No. 1 decide in April’s WNBA draft and the NCAA Division I all-time main scorer, completed with 20 factors, 3 assists and a couple of steals in her WNBA debut. However she struggled a lot of the evening, committing 10 turnovers and taking pictures 5-for-15 from the sector and 4-for-11 on 3-pointers. At halftime, she had 5 turnovers and 7 factors.

Clark’s 20 factors ranks second in franchise historical past behind Corridor of Famer Tamika Catchings (23 in 2002) for a Fever participant debut. Candace Parker had the very best level complete for any WNBA participant in her debut, with 34 in 2008. Amongst No. 1 picks up to now decade, Clark is second to Breanna Stewart (23 factors) in 2016.

How did the Aces, Liberty, Lynx and Solar begin the season within the win column? How did absences from injured heart Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and level guard Chelsea Grey of Las Vegas affect their groups’ video games? And the way did the Storm look with Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith making their Seattle debuts?

ESPN breaks down opening evening.

After a sluggish begin, Clark heated up late within the recreation however struggled general. By which areas was she most uncovered? And what was most promising about her professional debut?

Voepel: It says one thing about how over-the-top the expectations are for Clark that she had a team-high 20 factors in her skilled debut however the efficiency will probably be outlined by many as a “wrestle,” primarily for the turnovers.

That is to be anticipated, although, for any rookie level guard, contemplating simply how a lot faster and skilled the protection is at this degree.

Nonetheless, the turnovers need to be what’s going to hassle Clark most about her first recreation, as a result of they prevented doable scoring alternatives for the Fever. Connecticut guard DiJonai Carrington made issues exhausting on Clark, who had eight of her turnovers in opposition to the fourth-year professional. Clark was additionally 2-of-10 taking pictures in opposition to Carrington.

Nonetheless, Clark did not appear to lose confidence or aggression. That is key. Clark — who performed a team-high 31 minutes — knew there was going to be a studying curve, as all the pieces comes at younger gamers very quick, particularly for one who will probably be dealing with the ball as a lot as she’s going to. Clark will work out how you can higher calibrate her passing.



Caitlin Clark critiques her WNBA debut: ‘I’ve to be crisper’

Caitlin Clark speaks to the media after her first WNBA recreation the place she struggled with 10 turnovers.

It is just one recreation, however what are the real looking expectations going ahead for the Fever?

Voepel: Issues labored finest for Indiana within the second and third quarters, when the Fever have been in a position to dangle with Connecticut. The Solar pulled away within the fourth quarter, and that is one thing Fever coach Christie Sides will emphasize to her staff.

There have been some actual positives about how the Fever linked once they ran their offense nicely — however with 25 turnovers, there have been occasions that simply did not occur.

So realistically, they confirmed they might execute at a excessive degree in opposition to a veteran squad that’s anticipated to complete within the prime 4 within the league. The Fever have an opportunity to carry their very own in opposition to groups that are not fairly on the degree of the Solar.



A’ja Wilson drops 30 factors in Aces’ first win of the season

A’ja Wilson goes for 30 factors to propel the Aces previous the Mercury 89-80 within the first recreation of the season.

What do the Aces take away from their opener as they launch their three-peat marketing campaign?

Voepel: Grey’s absence — the Aces will not say how lengthy they count on her to be out with a foot harm — was evident in moments, particularly when Las Vegas did not assault Phoenix’s zone in addition to it wished in an 89-80 win.

“I believe we now have to get used to defenses switching up so long as Chelsea’s not on the market,” Aces coach Becky Hammon mentioned. “They are going to put stress on [us] to continuously make reads. It is a actually nice progress alternative for the remainder of the staff — whether or not that is organizing us, making reads.”

Nonetheless, guard Jackie Younger and Kelsey Plum mixed for 42 factors and 11 assists with simply three turnovers. And A’ja Wilson — who regarded in MVP type regardless of being important of herself for taking pictures 10-of-22 from the sector — confirmed her management on the court docket together with the massive stats she put up (30 factors, 18 rebounds, 5 assists and three blocks).

“My message was simply that I believe we overlooked who we’re as a result of it is the primary recreation,” Wilson mentioned. “I really feel like we have been all simply making an attempt to placed on that Superman cape. So I simply helped my teammates perceive that we will do this and nonetheless make one another higher.”

Why did the Storm wrestle offensively after including All-Stars Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike?

Pelton: In an 83-70 dwelling loss to Minnesota that noticed them get outscored 20-10 within the fourth quarter, the Storm regarded very very similar to a staff with solely two weeks of observe collectively. Seattle dedicated 17 turnovers and shot simply 37% from the sector — 31% after halftime.

“I believe typically, offensively, we had no circulation,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn mentioned postgame. “We had no ball reversals. We made it straightforward for Minnesota to defend us. I’d begin there. Offensively, we weren’t in sync.”

The end result was too many troublesome pictures for Storm guard Jewell Loyd, whose 3-of-19 taking pictures (16%) was the worst accuracy in franchise historical past by a participant who took no less than 15 pictures, per ESPN Stats & Data.

In keeping with Second Spectrum monitoring, Loyd’s quantified shot high quality of 34% — the efficient area objective proportion we would count on based mostly on the situation of her pictures, their kind and the gap to close by defenders — was the bottom of any participant with no less than 5 makes an attempt on Tuesday.

After Loyd set a single-season WNBA file for complete factors final season (on a Storm staff that completed 11-29), the arrival of Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike was supposed to alter that. However Quinn felt her staff reverted beneath stress from the Lynx and a gap evening crowd.

“It stunned me, however then it made sense to me as a result of that is first-game ambiance, all these issues,” Quinn mentioned. “You revert again to your behavior and we now have some behavior constructing that should happen and it is exhausting to interrupt some habits in per week and a half.”

One explicit long-range concern: Seattle producing extra 3-point makes an attempt. The Storm’s one made triple was their fewest because the 2016 season opener (a 96-66 loss at Los Angeles in Stewart’s WNBA debut) and their 9 makes an attempt their fewest since 2019. Minnesota — which received a mixed 42 factors and 20 rebounds from Napheesa Collier and Alanna Smith — held a 21-3 benefit in scoring past the arc.

After dropping their dwelling opener, the Storm now head on the street for a three-game street journey beginning Friday in Minneapolis. Ten of the staff’s first 16 video games will come away from Seattle, one thing coach Noelle Quinn mentioned she likes earlier than the sport.

“For this group particularly,” Quinn mentioned, “I believe it is an ideal factor as a result of we have to work out some kinks and I like the truth that we will do it in a troublesome surroundings.”



Alyssa Thomas turns into 2nd WNBA participant to file triple-double in season debut

Alyssa Thomas notches her twelfth profession triple-double with 13 factors, 13 help and 10 rebounds because the Solar prime the Fever.

Who stood out for the Connecticut Solar?

Voepel: Each the Solar (48.5%) and the Fever (48.0%) shot about the identical proportion from the sector, however Connecticut received 16 extra pictures and had 10 fewer turnovers. And whereas we now have come to count on ageless DeWanna Bonner (20 factors, six rebounds) and Thomas to play nicely each recreation, it is also nice for the Solar to see the progress of Tyasha Harris and Carrington within the backcourt. They mixed for 32 factors, plus Solar reserve guard Rachel Banham had 10. Add Carrington’s offense Tuesday to her distinctive job on protection, and he or she actually stood out on opening evening.

After which there was the return of Brionna Jones, who suffered a proper Achilles harm final June. She had eight factors and three rebounds, and the Solar are thrilled to have her again.



Betnijah Laney-Hamilton takes over in 4th to guide Liberty to victory

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton scores 10 factors within the fourth quarter to assist the Liberty earn a comeback victory vs. the Mystics on opening evening.

New York gained its opener however wanted a fourth-quarter rally. What labored for the Liberty?

Voepel: The Liberty took benefit of a stronger defensive efficiency within the fourth quarter in addition to the truth that Jonquel Jones and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton actually got here to play. They mixed for 45 factors and 12 rebounds and have been on the forefront of the Liberty’s protection in an 85-80 victory.

Final 12 months, Jones wasn’t totally wholesome at the beginning of the season, and it took some time for her to rise up to full pace. This 12 months, she’s prepared proper now.

“The place I used to be final 12 months vs. the place I’m this 12 months — I do not take it without any consideration,” mentioned Jones, who’s in her second season in New York. “I recognize these moments and love going on the market and taking part in exhausting.”

It wasn’t essentially a powerful debut offensively for Stewart, who was 3-of-9 from the sector for 8 factors, however she had 8 rebounds.

“It wasn’t a fairly recreation, and I believed Washington threw loads at us,” New York coach Sandy Brondello mentioned. “We discovered some rhythm.”

For Washington, Shakira Austin regarded sturdy after being restricted to 19 video games final season because of harm. She had 13 factors, 5 rebounds and 5 blocked pictures. She chastised herself for lacking a late putback, however there was loads the Mystics needed to like about how Austin performed.

“It is superb simply to be on the market,” Austin mentioned. “I used to be fairly poised and felt like I performed to my strengths. Coming into this 12 months, I wished to develop that.”