SI:AM | This Is the Caitlin Clark Everyone Expected to See

She made history with a boxscore-stuffing 30-point game against the Sparks.
Clark finished with 30 points in a loss to L.A.
Clark finished with 30 points in a loss to L.A. / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I don’t think the Timberwolves are going to complete the comeback, but I’m glad they’re at least shortening the break before the NBA Finals.

In today’s SI:AM:

⛹️‍♀️Caitlin Clark goes off
🐺 T-Wolves survive
MLB recognizes Negro League stats

We all knew this was coming

Over the course of her first seven WNBA games, Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark looked like, well, a rookie. She had a handful of solid offensive performances (three games with at least 20 points) but also her fair share of struggles (like a 2-for-8 shooting night in a loss to the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday).

But in Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks, Clark had her first true superstar game as a pro, scoring 30 points (on 7-of-16 shooting) with five rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks. She’s the first rookie since Rhynne Howard in 2022 to have a 30-point game and the first since Sabrina Ionescu in ’20 to have 30 points, five assists and five rebounds in a game. Not impressed yet? Clark is the first rookie in WNBA history and just the fourth WNBA player ever to have at least 30 points, five assists, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals in a game.

That’s the kind of performance fans expected from Clark when she turned pro, and it was only a matter of time before it became a reality. Every rookie needs some time to adjust to the higher level of play in the pros, and the transition is especially hard for WNBA players who had barely a month between the end of their college season and the start of their rookie year.

But it wasn’t all positive news for Clark. For one thing, she also notched seven turnovers. Losing the ball has been the biggest problem for Clark in her brief pro career. She currently leads the WNBA in turnovers per game with 5.3, well ahead of the next closest player, Skyler Diggins-Smith with 4.3. Turnovers are nothing new for Clark. She led the NCAA in that category three times in her college career and ranks third on the all-time list. But if the biggest problem with her game is that she coughs the ball up a little more often than you’d like, that’s something the Fever can certainly live with.

More disappointingly, the Fever lost the game, 88–82, to drop to 1–7 on the season. That’s the second worst record in the league. Only the winless Washington Mystics (0–6) have been worse.

“I think I just played with an aggressive mindset,” Clark told reporters. “I think that was the biggest thing—to play downhill the best I could. We did some good things and then we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Fever’s best stretch came immediately after halftime, when they started the third quarter on an 11–0 run to take a 43–37 lead. But the Sparks closed the quarter with an 11–0 run of their own to go up 59–55. The Los Angeles lead swelled to as many as 14 in the fourth quarter as the Fever failed to turn the tide.

“You don't give yourself a chance … You can't do something right for two and a half quarters and then just stop doing it,” Indiana coach Christie Sides said. “We were going under some of the screens that were supposed to be going over. We were gambling and getting out of position.

“Instead of us stepping over and stopping them (and) having our teammates’ back, we're reaching. That’s just a lack of discipline.”

The Fever clearly still have a lot to figure out, but the more games like Tuesday’s that Clark has, the easier the wins will come. 

Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates during Timberwolves’ Game 4 win vs. Mavericks.
Towns stepped up to keep Minnesota alive vs. Dallas on Tuesday. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).