Caitlin Clark Makes WNBA History in Mystics’ Win Over Fever

INDIANAPOLIS — Wearing only socks, Ariel Atkins casually walked across the court at Gainbridge Fieldhouse for her pregame media duties Wednesday. Perhaps the two-time WNBA all-star knew she had to save as much footing as possible for the game.

The Washington Mystics leaned on Atkins, who essentially carried her team across the finish line as Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever staged a furious comeback after trailing by 22 points late in the third quarter. Atkins scored an efficient 26 points in the Mystics’ 89-84 win, but it took a lot more to keep the Fever at bay as Clark put together an unprecedented stat line.

“Sometimes I don’t see them all, honestly,” Mystics Coach Eric Thibault said of Atkins’ contributions. “… She just saves a lot of plays. She’s a winner, man. She makes winning plays. She’s a champion. She’s a gold medalist. That’s why everyone in that locker room has so much respect for her.”

Those plays occurred throughout Wednesday’s game, but especially in the fourth quarter. With just under a minute left and the Fever on a 14-0 run, Atkins hit a pull-up jumper off the elbow while falling to put the Mystics up 87-82. Then, after two free throws by Clark made it a three-point game again, Atkins snuck in to steal a jump ball recovered by Fever center Aliyah Boston. Atkins charged down the court with the ball to secure possession with 16.9 seconds left, and Julie Vanloo hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

The Mystics (6-17) snapped a two-game losing streak and have just two games remaining before next week’s All-Star Game and the subsequent Olympic break. They host Las Vegas on Sunday and Phoenix on Tuesday. The Mystics are 6-5 since losing a franchise-record 12 straight games to open the season.

“We’re figuring each other out,” Atkins said. “But I also think there’s a big thing [is] …we actually listen too. We can talk, but we also listen.”

Atkins had her fifth 20-point game of the season, falling three points shy of her season high. She also recorded three rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.

“Just her aggressiveness,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson said. “In general, she does a really good job of staying consistent. And even when she’s not scoring, she’s still doing that little thing. But today in particular, she did a really good job of finishing plays, getting the loose ball first. She ended up making it for us. … And defensively, she was unbelievable.”

Washington had delivered one of its most complete performances of the season through three quarters. The team remains shorthanded, with Brittney Sykes (foot), Shakira Austin (hip) and Karlie Samuelson (hand) still out. A flurry of turnovers led to an early deficit for the Fever (9-14), who trailed 26-17 after the first quarter and 51-37 at halftime. Before the game, Indiana’s 23 turnovers were the second-most by a Mystics opponent this season, and Washington’s 23 points off turnovers fell three shy of a season high.

The Mystics’ offense was efficient early in the game, with 11 assists and 12 baskets in the first quarter, and back-cut layups were common throughout the afternoon.

Dolson finished with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Vanloo — who irritated fellow rookie Clark so much that Vanloo got a two-handed shove — added another 13 points. Aaliyah Edwards had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench, and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough continued her strong play as a reserve with 10 points, throwing down a nice alley-oop to Dolson over Clark for a three-point play.

“When we play our offense with really good tempo and speed, it can throw guards off balance, especially,” Dolson said. “… So when they’re cutting, I’m looking.”

Clark went off for 29 points (including five 3-pointers), 13 assists, five rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots. She became the first player in WNBA history with 25-plus points, 10-plus assists, five-plus rebounds, five-plus steals and five-plus 3-pointers. She pulled the Fever within a possession in the final minute as the Mystics began to have their own ball security issues, but Indiana could not complete the rally.

The Mystics kept the rest of the Fever relatively in check. Kelsey Mitchell had 15 points and NaLyssa Smith contributed 11 off the bench. Dolson and Edwards didn’t get Boston, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, going. They scored just six points, with five turnovers and five errors.

“We played with good power and we made them feel us,” Thibault said. “I thought we were disciplined in our coverage, not just against Caitlin, but against everyone in the line.

Everyone was just locked in and involved in the idea of ​​what they were good at.”

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