Video: Caitlin Clark Cooking Her Defender Against Washingtion Mystic

Caitlin Clark stuffs stat sheet, but furious Fever rally falls short vs. lowly Mystics

INDIANAPOLIS — A furious fourth-quarter comeback came up short as the Indiana Fever fell to the Washington Mystics, 89-84, in a camp day matinee Wednesday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The Fever were trailing by 21 points going into the fourth, but started the quarter on a 10-0 run. That run grew to a 29-11 spurt, putting the Fever, at one point, within three points of the Mystics.

But a timely fadeaway from Ariel Atkins, who finished the game with 26 points, gave the Mystics (6-17) enough breathing room with a minute left to steal the win.

Caitlin Clark stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points, 13 assists, five rebounds, five steals, three blocks and five made 3s.

The Fever, who were coming off a win over the WNBA’s best team (Liberty), followed it up with a loss to one of the league’s worst.

Here are three observations:

Turnovers set the tone for Fever

If the Fever (9-14) wanted to create some lasting momentum going into the Olympic break, this game — against a WNBA cellar-dweller — was pivotal.

But Indiana couldn’t take care of the ball.

The Fever turned the ball over a whopping eight times in the first quarter, leading to 24 shot attempts by the Mystics and just 12 for the Fever. Those turnovers came in multiple ways: offensive fouls on both Katie Lou Samuelson and Kelsey Mitchell, ill-advised passes, and simply losing control of the ball.

While the Fever got control in the second quarter, they still had 12 turnovers by halftime; the Mystics had five.

Indiana ended the game with 20 turnovers, the most since they committed 22 in an 89-77 loss to Seattle on June 27. Aliyah Boston and Clark each had five. The Mystics had 21 points off of those turnovers.

Lexie Hull starts, then sits most of game

Two games after Lexie Hull was a DNP – Coach’s Decision on July 2 against the Mystics, she was in the starting lineup against Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

Hull was effective in the Fever’s win over the league-leading New York Liberty on July 6, and coach Christie Sides ended up playing her 20 minutes — including the entire fourth quarter when the Fever fought back from a near-double-digit deficit. Hull went 2-for-3 from the field for six points, along with two rebounds, for a +/- of 6 in the five-point victory.

So, Sides elected to put Hull in the starting lineup, moving Katie Lou Samuelson to the power forward position and having NaLyssa Smith, the team’s second-leading rebounder, come off the bench. It marked the sixth different starting lineup the Fever have used this season.

With the new lineup, though, the Fever struggled defensively, trailing 26-18 after allowing the Mystics 24 shot attempts in the first quarter. Hull ended up playing just seven minutes in the first half and didn’t record any stats with a +/- of 11. Smith came in to fill the rest of the time, shifting Samuelson back to small forward.

Smith then started the second half, with Sides electing to return to the starting lineup she used for the past three games. Hull returned at the 2-minute mark of the third, and ended up playing 19 minutes — including most of the fourth quarter.

She finished the game with five points on 2-of-2 shooting, as well as two rebounds and two steals.

Aliyah Boston limited with foul trouble

The 4:25 mark of the third quarter was pivotal for both Fever forward Aliyah Boston and Mystics forward Stefanie Dolson. Officials called a defensive foul on Dolson as Boston was going in for a layup, and that would have been Dolson’s fourth. But the Mystics challenged the call, as Boston elbowed Dolson in the face while going for the shot.

After the officials reviewed the call, the Fever’s faces said it all: it was a successful challenge, and what was going to be an and-1 became a negated basket and, more importantly, Boston’s fifth foul at a crucial junction.

Boston had been in foul trouble all game; she picked up three fouls in about 10 minutes in the first half, forcing her to sit for the rest of the half. Then, with her fifth foul in just 25 minutes of game time (and 16 on the court), Boston was forced to sit until deep into the fourth quarter.

It was a big adjustment for the Fever team, as their offense usually runs through Boston. With the second-year center off the floor for the rest of the third , Indiana’s deficit went from 14 points to 21 by the end of the quarter.

Boston returned to the game with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter, and immediately made a layup, then grabbed a rebound on the next possession. She, along with backup Damiris Dantas, helped the Fever go on a 25-9 run throughout the quarter, nearly giving them a 21-point comeback victory.

How many points did Caitlin Clark score?

The Fever rookie had her fourth-straight points-assists double-double with 29 points and 13 assists. She added on five rebounds, as well as five steals and three blocks. She also had five turnovers.

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