Liberty holds Caitlin Clark to worst game of season against Fever

Sandy Brondello felt the Indiana Fever had started to figure it all out, that they had made progress in the last two weeks since the two teams last met.

But it seems the Liberty have also figured out Caitlin Clark and the Fever offense.

In their first meeting, it revolved around Betnijah Laney-Hamilton and their franchise record plus-32 while containing Clark in their home opener.

Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty and Caitlin Clark at the Barclays Center on Sunday evening. Michelle Farsi/New York Post

Two days later, Clark showed his potential with a 10-point first quarter and a total of 22 points.

But on Sunday, when Liberty and Fever met for the third time in less than three weeks, Clark was almost completely eliminated.

She was held to a career-low three points before returning to the locker room in the fourth quarter and later returning to the bench as Laney-Hamilton and Kayla Thornton – the latter seeing more minutes at center backup Nyara Sabally out – mostly split. task of guarding Clark.

Their ability to soften their impact allowed the Liberty to build a lead as large as 21 points in the first half en route to their 104-68 victory at the Barclays Center in a game that doubled as the Commissioner’s Cup opener .

Laney-Hamilton led the Liberty with 20 points, while Jonquel Jones had 13 points and finished one rebound away from a double-double in the first half before finishing with 18 and 13, respectively.

Breanna Stewart Michelle Farsi/New York Post

They shot 57 percent from the field, over 40 percent from 3, and began to look like the type of offense that propelled last year’s run to the WNBA Finals by surpassing the milestone. century for the second time this season.

Clark’s only basket came on a 3-pointer to start the second quarter, but that was it.

She shot 1-of-10 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3.

Late in the first half, she tried to make a quick layup after the Liberty converted a basket and was blocked from behind. Then she missed a transition layup as Ionescu chased after her.

Instead, Clark became a facilitator for the Fever, dishing out five assists and watching NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell become their primary scorers. They helped the Fever get back within 12 points in the third quarter, but that deficit quickly grew again.

Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty handles the ball during a game against the Fever on Sunday. Michelle Farsi/New York Post

All of this took place less than 24 hours after the Fever’s game against the Chicago Sky took a turn of controversy when Chennedy Carter pushed Clark to the ground in the third quarter.

A day later, the league changed the call to a blatant I. Carter refused to answer questions about the post-match gross foul and later posted about it on social media – writing on Instagram that she would “rather you hated me.”

Fever coach Christie Sides praised Clark for the way she handled the situation, for the way she asked the official to look at it and didn’t try to respond otherwise.

Clark attributed that response to the experience of the teams that defended her at Iowa, playing basketball with boys at the youth level and growing up with two brothers. “I’m definitely prepared for this,” she said before the match.

Even Brondello called the piece “probably inappropriate” and said “that’s not what we do.”

But the Fever struggled to channel progress from what ended as a one-point victory Saturday into anything that became a threat to the Liberty’s third straight victory.

Laney-Hamilton’s 20 points, which tied her season high, continued an offensive emergence dating back to the end of the 2023 season, once her role on the superteam — surrounded by a collection of stars — became clear and that she became one of the stars of Liberty. most consistent scorers in the playoffs.

In many ways, Sunday was déjà vu for the Liberty. It was déjà vu for the Fever – the latest reminder that it will take time for even Clark to adjust. But this time, the Liberty has found a way to unveil the most effective plan yet to contain it.

New York Post

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