What Caitlin Clark thought about playing in NY for 1st time as Indiana Fever fell to Liberty

NEW YORK – Caitlin Clark had never played in New York before.

Not in high school. Not at the AAU level. Not in college.

Saturday presented the WNBA’s newest star with that opportunity, as Clark and the Indiana Fever played the New York Liberty at Barclays Center.

Clark finished with 22 points as the Fever lost 91-80, but playing in front of a capacity crowd on a big stage was something the former Iowa star relished.

“I thought the atmosphere was incredible,” Clark said. “Definitely a lot of young girls here today, which was a lot of fun to see. The Liberty definitely deserve this crowd, they’ve been incredible over the last few seasons. They’re going to be incredible this year. It was fun to play here in New York for the first time and play in front of this environment. I think that brings out the best in a competitor.”

It was the second time in three days these teams played each other − the Liberty beat the Fever 102-66 Thursday in Indianapolis.

While the Liberty, who made it to the Finals last season, drew plenty of fans in their home opener Saturday, many fans were in the building to see Clark in person.

Her jersey and t-shirts with her name and “22” on the back dotted the stands. Black-and-yellow Iowa shirts were prevalent. So were supportive signs from those young girls Clark mentioned.

With about a minute to go as the Liberty was shooting free throws, a fan in the stands yelled out, “We love you Caitlin!”

And before the game, Clark signed autographs and took a few selfies with a horde of fans down near the court.

During the actual game, Clark shot 9-of-17 from the field. She shot 4-of-10 from long distance. She also had six rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers.

Ten of Clark’s points came in the first quarter.

This was the best game she’s played so far in her young pro career – just six weeks after last suiting up at Iowa.

“I thought I just came out and played harder,” Clark said. “I think that’s going to be my biggest focus going forward, just to compete and play hard. I thought our whole group did that.”

The Fever dropped to 0-3 to start a packed gauntlet to start the season. Indiana’s a young team that’s growing, but has a centerpiece star in Clark.

On Saturday she got to play in front of a large New York crowd for the first time.

“I love playing in front of these environments,” Clark said. “I think it was fun for our entire team. I’m happy for New York to have this type of environment and I hope fans continue to show up and I know they will.”

Final: Caitlin Clark finishes with 22 points as New York Liberty beat Indiana Fever 91-80

Solid showing from Clark.

She finished with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting (4-of-10 from deep) with six rebounds and eight assists. She also had eight turnovers.

End of the third quarter: Caitlin Clark up to 20 points as Liberty leads by 15 points

Clark has 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, 4-of-8 from deep, with five rebounds, six assists, one steal and eight turnovers.

The Liberty have a 73-58 lead on the Liberty.

Halftime: Caitlin Clark with 15 points at the break as Liberty lead the Fever 57-37

Clark has 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 3-of-5 from long distance. She has three assists and six turnovers.

A lot of the talk before the game was about how Clark’s handling the adjustment to the pros, something she said she’s trying to give herself grace with.

Things aren’t going to come as easily with the Fever as they did when she was in college.

2Q, 4:45: Caitlin Clark drains a long, off-balanced three

How many times did we see this type of shot during Clark’s time at Iowa?

Long three-pointer, well beyond the three-point line, off balanced with a defender tightly guarding her.

Clark swished the three, eliciting a big ovation. It was her third triple of the game.

She’s up to 15 points.

Celebrities in the building

South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley is here and just got a huge ovation when shown on the videoboard.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King is also here sitting courtside, and she also got a nice hand when shown earlier in the game.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and former WNBA star Sue Bird are also here and got loud ovations from the crowd.

Actor Jason Sudeikis is also here.

End of the first quarter: Caitlin Clark with 10 points so far

Clark has 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 2-of-3 from three-point range, with three assists and three turnovers so far.

The Liberty are up 33-22.

1Q, 9:07: Caitlin Clark scores first basket of the game

An easy layup for Clark to start her scoring for the day.

Clark drained her first three-pointer of the game about three minutes later.

Tip-off: Nice ovation for Caitlin Clark as starting lineups are announced

The PA announcer announced the Fever’s starting five, and the first four starters didn’t elicit much of a reaction.

Then he announced “No. 22 from Iowa, Caitlin Clark” and that changed with a loud ovation and cheers.

Strong crowd on hand for the game, which is the Liberty’s home opener. There are a ton of Clark shirts in the stands.

Pre-game: Caitlin Clark addresses playing in New York, then spends time signing autographs for fans

Clark is achieving many firsts as an WNBA rookie.

Playing in New York is one of them.

“I haven’t,” Clark said of playing in the City. “No AAU, no high school, nothing. This is fun. This arena’s amazing. It’ll be fun for me to go around to all the new WNBA arenas and kind of check them off the box. This is certainly one that’s definitely up there. I know the crowd will be incredible.”

Many fans were already in the building and around the court to watch Clark and her teammates go through pre-game warmups. There are a bunch of “Clark” and “22” signs in the stands.

Before going back to the locker room, Clark signed a bunch of autographs and took a few selfies.

Hearing and reading about the attention that’s followed Clark for awhile now is one thing. But seeing the affect it’s had on fans, in person, is another.

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