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Caitlin Clark 'pushes pace' in home preseason debut as Fever beat Dream

May 10 (UPI) -- Caitlin Clark admitted it was hard to get clean looks, but teammates lauded her ability to "push the pace" for the Indiana Fever in their 2024 home preseason debut, a narrow win over the Atlanta Dream.

Clark, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, totaled 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the 83-80 victory Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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"She pushes the pace for us," Fever forward NaLyssa Smith told reporters, when asked about Clark. "She gets the ball where it needs to be. When you are on the floor, you have to look up because the ball is coming."

More than 13,000 were in attendance, setting a record for the largest home crowd at a Fever home preseason game.

"It was a lot of fun," Clark said. "I thought they were loud and thought they were into it. ... This was a preseason game on a Thursday night and there were 13,000 people here. It shows what it's going to be like all season."

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The game featured four lead changes and was tied just once. The Fever outshot the Dream 46.3% to 35.9%. They also outscored the Dream 38-28 in the paint and 19-7 in points off turnovers.

Smith scored a game-high 21 points. Aliyah Boston, the No. 1 overall pick in 2023, and forward Katie Lou Samuelson scored 11 points apiece for the Fever.

Clark missed her first two shots, committed a turnover and drew a foul before she made a layup to cut into an early Fever deficit. The rookie guard and Smith scored five points apiece in the first quarter, but the Fever trailed 30-24 to start the second.

The Dream used an 11-2 run to push their advantage to 13 about two minutes into the frame. Clark, who missed her first four 3-point attempts, sank her first shot from downtown 3:41 before halftime. That shot was part of an 11-2 Fever run, which cut the deficit to 49-48 at the break.

The Dream and Fever exchanged the lead early in the third. The Fever then used a 15-2 run to snatch a 68-60 edge and never trailed again. They carried a 70-66 lead into the fourth. The Dream cut the deficit to three with 2:52 remaining, but could not close their final deficit.

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Clark finished the night 4 of 12 from the field, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range. She made 6 of 15 shots and was 5 of 13 from 3-point range en route to 21 points in her preseason debut, a 79-76 loss to the Dallas Wings on May 3 in Arlington, Texas.

"The biggest thing for me is to continue to stack days and continue to learn," Clark said. "I learned in the first game and learned here. The turnaround is quick. We are going to play seven games in 12 days. We are traveling and on the road a lot. There is no time to mess around. You better be ready to go. This is the challenge I signed up for."

The Fever will face the Connecticut Sun in their regular-season opener at 7:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Uncasville, Conn. That game will air on ESPN2.

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