Indiana Fever hold on for 71-70 win over Chicago Sky in chippy contest of budding rivalry

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JUNE 01: Aliyah Boston #7 of the Indiana Fever celebrates after making a basket against the Chicago Sky during the fourth quarter in the game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on June 01, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Fever won their second game of the season, taking down the Chicago Sky, 71-70, Saturday afternoon for their first win at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

It was also the first win of the Commissioner's Cup — the WNBA's in-season tournament.

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Here are three observations:

Fever pick up second win of the season

With just over a minute left in the game, Indiana led, 71-67. It was a similar situation for the Fever — they led late against Connecticut and Seattle earlier in the season, but both ended in close losses.

This time, it was different. With a late foul from NaLyssa Smith with the Fever up two points, Sky guard Marina Mabrey went 1-of-2 from the line. The Fever held on for a one-point victory.

It's obvious the Fever have had a gauntlet of a schedule — 11 games in 20 days to start the season, playing every other day (twice on back-to-back days), and five of the first seven games on the road.

The last time a team started the season with 11 games in 20 days was the Washington Mystics in 2011, and they went 1-10 in that span. With the win over the Sky on Saturday afternoon, the Fever officially beat that number. Indiana is now 2-8 going into its 11th game of the season Sunday against the New York Liberty.

Obviously, a 2-8 record isn't something to celebrate. But a win against the Sky is a sign of improvement for the young team.

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Defense keeps Fever in game

Just two days after atrocious, third-quarter defense caused the Fever a loss to Seattle, Indiana cleaned up its game. And it helped them stay close in times when their offense wasn't clicking.

Indiana got off to a hot start on offense, scoring 17 points in the first seven minutes of the game. Then, the Fever went scoreless throughout the final three minutes when the first subs came into the game. Indiana still led at the end of the first quarter, 17-14, because of defense — it held Chicago to 7-of-22 shooting in the first 10 minutes.

The Fever's defense also helped them through a four-minute scoring drought in the second quarter. Chicago could only get a five-point advantage in that time, and Kelsey Mitchell erased that with a 3-pointer and fastbreak layup once the Fever got out of their scoring funk.

Caitlin Clark plays nearly all game, despite injury

Fever rookie Caitlin Clark sat for six minutes of Indiana's game against Los Angeles on Tuesday night, and four of them came near the end of the third quarter. During that third-quarter stretch Clark was on the bench, the Sparks went on an 11-0 run, ultimately winning the game by six points.

Since then, Clark hasn't had any non-injury rest on the bench. She played all but six seconds in Indiana's loss to Seattle on Thursday night, despite the Fever trailing by 15-20 points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Clark was on track to play the entire game Saturday afternoon until she seemed to tweak her ankle in the third quarter. She drew some contact on a drive by the baseline, falling hard to the ground and sitting for a few seconds. She limped to the sideline, checking out of the game for the first time.

Still, she returned four minutes of game time later. Clark continued to take increased physicality from the Sky, including an instance when Chennedy Carter pushed her down while she was waiting for an inbound after a Sky basket. Carter was called for an away from the ball foul, which resulted in a Fever free throw and possession.

How many points did Caitlin Clark score?

Clark scored 11 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists. She hit her first 3-point attempts of the game but finished 2-of-9 from behind the arc and 4-of-11 overall.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Clark is the third player in league history to have 150 points, 50 rebounds, and 50 assists in the first 10 games of a season.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: WNBA: Indiana Fever, Caitlin Clark beat Chicago Sky, Angel Reese