Over $13,000 to Witness Caitlin Clark Win the Preseason Home Fever Debut

At a WNBA preseason game, the crowd usually does not erupt into thunderous cheers when a player is introduced.

However, there is nothing ordinary about Indiana Fever rookie and first overall draft pick Caitlin Clark’s home court debut.

On Thursday night, Clark, the former University of Iowa standout who has taken the sports world by storm, made her debut at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and got exactly the kind of response one would anticipate considering the amount of attention she has garnered nationwide.

The energy in the building suggested this was a crucial game versus the Atlanta Dream, even if it didn’t matter in the rankings, from the numerous fans wearing No. 22 shirts (both from Iowa and the Fever) to the thunderous applause the crowd emitted each time Clark scored or reentered the game.

Clark remarked, “It was a lot of fun, I thought they were loud, I thought they were into it,” taking note of the size of the crowd. “It was fun to see.”

“This is a preseason game on a Thursday night and there’s 13,000 people here. I think that just shows what it’s going to be like for us all season, and it’s going to help us. There are going to be games at home that you’re going to need to win. So, I’m excited for our home opener. I think it’s going to be a packed house, obviously, versus a really great team [the New York Liberty]. It’s pretty incredible.”

“Thirteen thousand at a preseason game is pretty unheard of.”

Clark shot just 2-of-9 on threes and 4-of-12 from the field on a difficult shooting night. Despite tough opposition and occasionally double teams, she finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Even still, Christie Sides, the coach of the Fever, acknowledged that she was engrossed in the moment even as she attempted to lead and assess her team, demonstrating how much the atmosphere drew in her.

“I don’t remember a crowd like that all last year,” she continued. “It creates a vibe in there. It just changes. These are exhibition games and we’re trying to figure out our team and figure out how to play, but you get caught up in the moment. You get caught up in a home crowd.”

Officially, 13,028 people attended, which is almost three times higher than the slightly over 4,000 attendance Indiana averaged for their 20 home games throughout the regular season in 2023. Following that, Clark ran into close friend and erstwhile college teammate Gabbie Marshall, and the two clicked a picture.

The NBA announced that the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks would play Game 3 of their best-of-seven series at that time, so the game that was originally set on Friday was rescheduled.

For Clark, the switch from playing college ball a month ago to the professional game has happened quickly. Furthermore, there wasn’t as much fanfare and fanciness surrounding this game as one might have thought.

With music playing and the stands beginning to fill, Clark completed her pregame warm-ups quietly and intently. But it was all business for Clark & Co. as the game began.

“I don’t think I was that effective, honestly,” Clark stated. “I thought more than anything I did a really good job of passing the ball, finding my teammates. Obviously, I would have liked to have made a couple more 3s, but sometimes that’s how you shoot it.”

Clark wasn’t totally to blame for everything.

Naturally, opponents plot their moves to slow down the most scoring player in NCAA Division I history. Atlanta’s strategy was to physically attack Clark in an attempt to get her off her place, as well as to use hard closeouts and numerous defenders forcing the ball out of her hands.

As a result, Clark had trouble early on as the Fever trailed, and her teammates had trouble turning her precise passes into baskets. However, they also got a sneak peek at what this season might hold.

NaLyssa Smith, who finished with a game-high 21 points, stated, “She pushes the pace for us, she gets the ball where it needs to be, if you run the floor you’ve got to look up because the ball is coming.” “She can spread the floor, everybody can score and she’s looking to pass the ball.”

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