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Nurse, McDonald spur 2nd half rally to lead Los Angeles Sparks past Indiana Fever 88-82

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Caitlin Clark sees the progress — even as the losses and frustration mount.

On Tuesday night, against the WNBA’s only other one-win team, the Indiana Fever rookie strung together her most complete game yet by scoring a season-best 30 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing five rebounds in her most complete performance yet despite losing 88-82 to the Los Angeles Sparks.

“I think I just played with an aggressive mindset,” she said. “I think that was the biggest thing — to play downhill the best I could. We did some good things and then we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”

It’s been that kind of season, so far, for the former Iowa star and her new teammates.

They’ve lost seven of eight, but part of the problem has been a brutal schedule in which the Fever have played five games against last season’s top three teams and eight regular-season contests in 14 days, leaving little time for practice — or rest.

And it’s taken a toll even though Clark appears to be getting stronger by the game.

“Tonight she was able to get to the foul line a lot, which supplemented her offense, but you I thought we did a pretty good job (defensively),” Sparks coach Curt Miller said after facing Clark for the second time four days. “Obviously, the point total tonight again was bigger but you know seven made baskets tonight…”

That made Miller feel pretty good.

The game featured the top two picks in last month’s WNBA draft, Clark and forward Cameron Brink. Brink finished with three points, three rebounds and two assists.

But it was veterans Kia Nurse and Aari McDonald who stole the show. Nurse scored 22 points while McDonald added a season-high 21 points and four assists to help the Sparks (2-4) rally for a victory two days after losing to Indiana.

Clark has now lost all three of her home games, though the impact she’s had remains evident everywhere she goes.

The Fever drew a near sellout crowd of 16,013 on a Tuesday night. a crowd that included former Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, Indiana Pacers stars Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard and current NFL players Shaquille Leonard and Nick Cross.

What they saw was a wide array of emotions.

Fans leapt to their feet on Clark’s 3-pointer from the right wing just 66 seconds into the game. She wowed the crowd with nifty passes, crafty steals and even two first-half blocks.

She also made the home fans wince with three first-half turnovers and when a frustrated Clark’ drew a technical foul with 2.7 seconds left in the first quarter, coach Christie Sides even pulled her star rookie toward the free-throw line for a discussion between quarters.

And once, between McDonald’s free throw attempts, the Sparks guard mistakenly rushed to defend Clark.

“I think she was just trying to pick me, up, I don’t think she realized she had another because of the technical,” Clark said. “She didn’t say anything, just a kind person, honestly.”

At times, the game was downright ugly. While the Fever shot just 38.2% from the field, the Sparks committed 19 turnovers though they made a season-best 14 3s.

Indiana erased a 37-32 halftime deficit by starting the third quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 43-37 lead. It didn’t last. Los Angeles eventually responded with a decisive 28-8 run that turned a 55-48 third-quarter deficit into a 76-63 lead in the fourth quarter and the Fever never recovered.

Dearica Hamby had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Los Angeles.

Aliyah Boston fought through foul trouble to add 17 points and six rebounds for the Fever. Kelsey Mitchell had 15 points, and Clark made three 3s and 13 of 15 free throws.

“I think everybody’s physical with me. They get away with things, you know, probably other people don’t,” Clark said. “It’s tough, but it’s a very physical game. That’s just professional basketball.”

UP NEXT

Sparks: Visit Chicago on Thursday, the second stop on a three-game road trip.

Fever: Hosts Seattle on Thursday in their second straight home game.

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball

By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer

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