Clark, Fever get first win in LA

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AP PHOTO – Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) greets Ashton Kutcher after making a 3-pointer during the second half of a WNBA game against the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — Caitlin Clark had 11 points and 10 rebounds for her first WNBA double-double and the Indiana Fever beat Los Angeles 78-73 on Friday night to snap a season-opening five-game skid in front of a Sparks record crowd of 19,103 that included several Hollywood stars.

“The first one feels really good,” said Clark, who also had eight assists.

Kelsey Mitchell led Indiana (1-5) with 18 points and Aliyah Boston and Temi Fagbenle had 17 each.

Clark’s rebounds were a career high. She missed her first seven 3-point attempts, but finally made one of her trademark deep 3s with 2:27 remaining in the game, triggering an explosion of cheers and applause. A giddy Clark high-fived actor and Iowa native Ashton Kutcher sitting courtside.

“That’s a fellow Hawkeye, somebody that’s been very supportive of me over the course of my college career,” she said. “He was encouraging me the whole game.”

The game featured the youth and future of the WNBA, with No. 1 draft pick Clark playing against No. 2 pick Cameron Brink and fourth selection Rickea Jackson of the Sparks.

“They’re making a huge impact in our league,” Fever coach Christie Sides said before the game.

Brink had 15 points and nine rebounds and Jackson added a career-high 16 points off the bench for the Sparks (1-3). Dearica Hamby had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Jason Sudeikis, Rosie O’Donnell, Kathy Griffin, DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, USC star JuJu Watkins along with teammate Rayah Marshall and coach Lindsay Gottlieb were among the sellout home crowd for the Sparks’ first game at Crypto.com Arena this season.

“The crowd was absolutely amazing, especially there at the end,” Clark said. “They were into it, they were invested.”

After trailing by 11 points early in the game, Boston, Fagbenle and Mitchell dominated the fourth quarter, with Mitchell hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.

Brink made a 3-pointer and Lexie Brown scored to draw the Sparks within 73-71. But Clark answered with her second deep 3-pointer with about 40 seconds left and the crowd roared again as Indiana stayed in front, 76-71.

“I was due, like they had to go in,” said Clark, who was 4 of 14 from the field, 2 of 9 on 3-point attempts. “I had missed so many throughout the game.”

The Fever were just 7 of 25 from long range; the Sparks also struggled, going 5 of 24.

The Sparks played their first two home games in Long Beach, but with Clark and the Fever in town the game was moved to downtown Los Angeles.

Trailing 45-34, the Fever opened the third quarter on a 16-3 run to lead 50-48. Fagbenle and Boston combined to score all of Indiana’s points, with Fagbenle’s 3-pointer capping the spurt. Clark didn’t score but she came up with a big steal at midcourt and after she missed Boston scored.

“She was running our offense. She’s learning her system, learning her players,” Sides said of Clark. “She hit some huge shots and did everything we needed her to do.”

The teams meet again Tuesday in Indianapolis.

UP NEXT

Fever: Visit Las Vegas on Saturday.

Sparks: Host Dallas on Sunday.



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