Caitlin Clark hasn’t saved Fever. Team has ‘a lot of growing up to do.’

SEATTLE — The WNBA’s Olympic break starts in 24 days. It cannot come soon enough for the Indiana Fever and Caitlin Clark. 

If you’ve wondered why the Fever have had so many top picks the past few years — Clark at No. 1 in 2024, Aliyah Boston at No. 1 in 2023, NaLyssa Smith at No. 2 in 2022 — it was obvious Thursday. Indiana looked like a team at the bottom of the standings, with a roster full of frustrated players. Seattle’s 89-77 win wasn’t nearly as close as the score implied.

For stretches Thursday, Seattle looked like a group that’s played together for years — Indiana’s defense makes that possible. Seattle shot 47.5% from the field and a staggering 57.1% from 3 in the first half. The Fever let Loyd score 23 points in 15 minutes. Nneka Ogwumike nearly had a double-double — nine points, 10 rebounds — also in 15 minutes. (She got her double-double within the first 36 seconds of the second half.) Two other Storm players scored in double figures. 

And that was just the first 20 minutes.

“It never really felt great out there,” Clark admitted. “It just didn’t feel like it was flowing well.” 

Loyd finished with 34 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Four other Storm players scored seven points or more. 

The Fever are in desperate need of practice.

“We’ve got a lot of growing up to do,” said Indiana coach Christie Sides. “That’s just what it is. The outside expectations, the outside noise, it doesn’t help, but we have to stay connected, keep growing and keep finding ways to improve.” 

There were positives Thursday for Indiana. Temi Fagbenle, who missed the past 11 games after injuring her foot May 28, returned and even in limited time (19 minutes), looked like the player who had built a quick and promising chemistry with Clark the first few weeks of the season. (Fagbenle finished with eight points and seven rebounds.)

Boston was a monster on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds. 

And Clark (15 points, seven assists and six rebounds) was her usual self, hitting a logo 3, throwing a nifty behind-the-back pass — Smith couldn’t score it — and generally delighting another sold-out crowd with her play. 

But she also got shoved around a lot, and spent a good chunk of the first quarter on the floor. She was visibly frustrated at a lack of calls and a lack of team cohesion. 

“Nobody enjoys losing,” Clark said glumly afterward. “We’ve lost 12 games and we’re not even at the halfway point of our season. We’re not gonna be walking around the court smiling. Being able to find that competitive edge while staying positive is a hard thing to do. We can definitely be better at it.” 

The Fever gave up too many open looks and couldn’t get any of their own. They turned the ball over 22 times, which Seattle turned into 27 points. The Storm scored 17 fast-break points while Indiana managed only four. 

Clark said pregame that she felt the Fever had improved considerably since their last trip to the Emerald City, an 85-83 loss May 22 that came down to the final shot (Indiana muffed the inbounds pass to Clark and couldn’t get a look). But everyone else has improved, too. 

The Fever are still very far behind, with a young core that hasn’t figured out how to win against the league’s best.

The WNBA will take a full four weeks off while Team USA is in Paris trying to win its eighth consecutive gold medal. Most teams will give players a week to 10 days off for vacation, then get in the gym and start practicing. 

The Fever are counting down the days. 

Email Lindsay Schnell at lschnell@usatoday.com and follow her on social media @Lindsay_Schnell

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