WNBA opening night takeaways: Caitlin Clark struggles, A’ja Wilson shows why

Opening night of the 2024 WNBA season is in the books, and what a start it was. No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark made her long-awaited debut, the back-to-back champion Las Vegas Aces received their rings, Jonquel Jones and the New York Liberty pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback and the Minnesota Lynx upset the new-look Seattle Storm.

Here are the full results:

  • New York Liberty 85, Washington Mystics 80
  • Connecticut Sun 92, Indiana Fever 71
  • Las Vegas Aces 89, Phoenix Mercury 80
  • Minnesota Lynx 83, Seattle Storm 70

Now that the action has settled, let’s take a spin around the league with some key takeaways from opening night:

Clark gets her ‘welcome to the league’

Caitlin Clark set another record in her debut — just not one she wanted. Her 10 turnovers Tuesday were the most in a debut all-time, set a Fever franchise record and were tied for the eighth-most ever in a game. If anyone ever asks Clark about her “welcome to the league” moment, this game was it.

Within the first five minutes of her career, Clark missed her first three shots, turned the ball over and picked up two fouls. DiJonai Carrington was hounding her all over the court, and the Sun were sending multiple defenders her way at every opportunity. While Clark has dealt with that approach before, she’d never faced a team as long, athletic and physical as the Sun.

If there’s a silver lining in this outing for Clark, it’s that she won’t face many tougher tests all season long. The Sun are one of the best defensive teams in the league, with a unique array of defenders suited to bothering Clark. And that doesn’t even take into account the opening night emotions and intensity.

This was a disappointing debut for Clark, but it was not cause for long-term concern.

Wilson sparkles on ring night

A’ja Wilson finished in third place in the historically close MVP race last season. As a result, she missed out on joining Cynthia Cooper as the only players to win MVP in back-to-back seasons and did not become the fourth player to win that award three times.

Nearly everyone expects her to pick up the trophy this summer, however, and she showed exactly why in the Aces’ win over the Mercury. Wilson got off to an incredible start with 17 points in the first quarter, and ended up with 30 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

This was Wilson’s third game with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, which puts her in a tie with Breanna Stewart for the second-most such games in WNBA history. Only Candace Parker, Wilson’s former teammate with the Aces, has more.

Jones picks up where she left off in playoffs

Jonquel Jones got off to a slow start in her first season with the Liberty a year ago, as she struggled to get back to full fitness after a foot injury while also adjusting to a new team and role. In the playoffs, though, Jones was the team’s best player. She picked up right where she left off in New York’s season opener.

Jones was aggressive early and never looked back. She finished with a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds on 10 of 17 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point land. Last season, Jones never took that many shots and she only scored 25-plus points just once.

Thanks in large part to Jones’ effort, the Liberty pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback against the Mystics to start their new campaign with a win. This is the version of Jones that the Liberty were expecting when they traded for her prior to last season, and if she keeps playing like this it will be great news for them.

New-look Storm still a work in progress

The Storm revamped their roster in the offseason by adding a pair of All-Stars in free agency: Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. That duo, along with returning stars Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor, gave the Storm one of the most talented groups in the league.

But as we’ve learned over the last few years, these superteams take time to come together on the court. The Storm’s opening night loss to the Lynx was yet another reminder. There were some exciting flashes, but the overall performance and approach from the Storm showed that they still have a lot to sort out.

Loyd and Diggins-Smith were a combined 7 of 32 from the field and had as many turnovers as made baskets, the team took nearly double the amount of mid-range jumpers (17) as 3-pointers (nine) and they scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter.

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