Indiana defense goes AWOL as Fever fall to 1-8 despite Caitlin Clark's 20 points

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Fever suffered their eighth loss of the season on Thursday night, falling to Seattle for the second time, 103-88.

Indiana is now 1-8 on the season, with a game against the Chicago Sky coming up on Saturday.

'I'm just so ready to win now.' If only Fever defense could get stops.

Here are three observations:

Brutal third quarter leads to blowout loss

When Indiana and Seattle played at Climate Pledge Arena last week, the game came down to the final seconds — literally. The Fever led going into the final five minutes of the game, and a botched pass eventually cost them the victory. This time around, the Fever were expecting to battle with the Storm down to the wire.

In the first half, it looked like that could happen, as Fever trailed by just six points heading into halftime. Ten minutes of game time later, with a near-complete breakdown of the Fever's defense, they trailed by 22.

Indiana's defense has struggled this season, and it showed for an extended period of time on Thursday. Seattle outscored Indiana 34-18 in the third quarter, shooting 12-of-18 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Indiana only went 7-of-20 from the field in the third quarter. The Storm started on a 12-4 run, and went on another 16-3 near the end of the quarter.

Seattle guard Nneka Ogwumike was unstoppable, going 4-for-4 from the field for nine points. She helped the Storm build up an insurmountable lead, allowing them to coast in the fourth quarter.

Caitlin Clark picks up third tech of season

Clark isn't afraid to speak her mind on the court. In some cases this season, it's led to a technical foul.

Clark picked up her third tech in nine games on Thursday night (and her second in two games) for jawing with Storm guard Victoria Vivians. Clark hit a long 3-pointer over Vivians, eliciting a large cheer from the crowd, before Vivians got in her face. Clark quickly talked back, and Fever center Aliyah Boston got in-between the two. Officials ended up calling a double technical on Clark and Vivians.

If Clark continues this trend, she may be facing a suspension — a player can get up to seven technical fouls in a season before they're suspended for one game. After that, the player will be suspended for one game for every other tech (9th, 11th, 13th) they receive.

But Clark won't be alone: Mercury veteran Diana Taurasi has been suspended four times for getting too many technical fouls, including twice in one season.

More: Caitlin Clark jaws with Victoria Vivians, picks up third technical foul of the season

Coach Christie Sides also picked up a technical foul in Thursday's game after Clark went up for a layup, ran into some contact and didn't draw a foul. Sides said Tuesday her players shouldn't talk to the refs enough to get a tech, and leave that to her.

"We're spending too much time talking to the officials," Sides said." We've got to leave that alone. We've got to just play our game and let them do their job and not put it in their hands to make decisions that ultimately hurt us. We don't want — we shouldn't get technicals. Let me get the technicals. Let me go after the officials."

NaLyssa Smith returns to starting lineup

Temi Fagbenle, a forward who came to the Fever on a training camp contract, worked her way into the starting lineup this season. Her athleticism meshing with Clark's fast-paced game, Fagbenle had started the past two games against the Las Vegas Aces and Los Angeles Sparks, taking the spot third-year forward NaLyssa Smith has held for two years.

But Fagbenle suffered an injury to her left foot just two games into her starting stint, putting her out least 2-3 weeks.

That gave Smith another shot. And she made it count in her first game back. She scored the first four points of the game and had 10 by the end of the first quarter, seeming to jell with Clark's passes more and more — including grabbing a bounce pass the rookie put into the paint for a layup.

While the Fever suffered 20-point loss, Smith was a bright spot offensively: she finished with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds.

How many points did Caitlin Clark score?

The Fever rookie scored 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting, 3-of-8 from 3, and had nine assists, but seven turnovers.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Caitlin Clark scores 20, but Indiana Fever defense AWOL in loss to Storm