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Heat is off Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever after getting their 1st win of the WNBA season

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The heat is off Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever. The WNBA rookie sensation and her team won their first game of the season.

The Fever rallied from 11 points down in the first half to beat Los Angeles 78-73 and snap a five-game skid on Friday night in front a Sparks home record crowd of 19,103 at Arena.

Clark had 11 points and 10 rebounds for her first WNBA double-double. She hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final minutes after missing her first seven attempts from long range. She had eight assists and just two turnovers.

The relief was evident on Clark’s face at the buzzer. She smiled as she made her way across the court to greet actor and fellow Iowan Ashton Kutcher, his wife Mila Kunis, and their children. Among the crowd were fans in gold Iowa shirts.

“Nights like tonight just remind me of why I love playing basketball and why I started playing basketball,” she said. “You get a win and you walk off the floor and there’s so many young kids just screaming your name and love getting to watch you.”

The start of her pro career has been rough for Clark, whose every move was already scrutinized while becoming college basketball’s career scoring leader for men and women at Iowa. The attention and pressure ramped up when the Fever chose her No. 1 in the WNBA draft.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind,” she said. “I feel like I talk to the media more than I get to talk to my own family which is really kind of sad in a way. It’s a lot for somebody that’s 22 years old. It can be tough at times. Our team is really young. It’s difficult navigating this.”

The five-game skid to open the season only added to the harping by critics, many of whom had automatically tabbed the Fever to win the WNBA championship after going 13-27 last year.

“The bullets are just coming every day, every game that’s a close game,” Fever coach Christie Sides said. “People want it to happen now and that’s just not how it works.”

Clark said getting off social media has been healthy for her. Teammate Aliyah Boston, who scored 17 points Friday, has logged off as well in an effort “to protect my peace.”

“There’s just a lot of couch coaches and there’s a lot of people that have never stepped on the floor that just continue to tell you how you should be playing basketball,” Boston said. “Honestly, we’re messing up whatever bets or whatever they have going on and personally I’d rather not know because obviously I did try to get those rebounds. I just didn’t.”

Clark isn’t complaining. She knew the expectations that awaited her as a pro and insists she “wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Getting Indiana’s first victory in the same arena where Kobe Bryant starred for the Los Angeles Lakers was special to Clark. She embraces the same competitive mindset the late superstar did while still wanting to keep her lighter side.

“I never want to lose the fun of the game,” she said.



Article Topic Follows: AP California

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