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5 takeaways from the first day of WNBA play

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The WNBA’s opening day gave fans a first look at Caitlin Clark as a professional, the Aces chasing a three-peat, and Alyssa Thomas continuing her stat-line ways with another triple-double.

Here’s what we learned from the first day of play:

Clark’s arrival creates unprecedented hype around Indiana. But there’s a reason the Fever were able to select the Iowa star No. 1 overall: last season’s 13-27 record. So despite the excitement, this is still a team trying to work their way up from the bottom of the league. That was evident in a 92-71 loss to the Sun, when the Fever committed 25 turnovers and had five Sun players score in double figures. Thomas led the way with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. While the Sun showed poise, the Fever struggled to score outside of Clark (20 points) and NaLyssa Smith (13). Clark will have to adapt to the competition, and the Fever will have to develop chemistry.

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT - MAY 14: Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever dribbles the ball against Astou Ndour-Fall #45 and DiJonai Carrington #21 of the Connecticut Sun in the game at Mohegan Sun Arena on May 14, 2024 in Uncasville, Connecticut .  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photo, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT - MAY 14: Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever dribbles the ball against Astou Ndour-Fall #45 and DiJonai Carrington #21 of the Connecticut Sun in the game at Mohegan Sun Arena on May 14, 2024 in Uncasville, Connecticut .  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photo, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever have some things to figure out this season. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) (Elsa via Getty Images)

The Mercury made three major additions this offseason, bringing Kahleah Copper, Natasha Cloud and Rebecca Allen to Phoenix. They’ve only played one game together, but the Mercury looked like a contender Tuesday night, especially considering they were playing without Brittney Grinner, who is out with a broken toe. The Mercury held on to the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces before falling 89-80. Phoenix played a fast game, with 76 shot attempts, and looked like a team that could challenge for the title. The Mercury were evenly matched, with four double-digit scorers. Diana Taurasi led with 23, Copper had 19 and Cloud and Allen added 14 each. The team’s pace of play and talent level will be a tough combination to stop as the season progresses.

After coming off the bench last season, DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris both started the Sun’s opening game against the Fever. Carrington finished with 16 points while also tasked with guarding Clark. Carrington helped Clark shoot 5-of-15, while the rookie had 10 turnovers. Meanwhile, Harris went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc on his way to 16 points. The duo will likely remain in starting roles throughout the season and both appear ready to contribute.

The Liberty are a star-studded team – two former MVPs in Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart, along with All-Star guards Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot – but Betnijah Laney-Hamilton is the team’s unsung hero. She played the role last year as New York advanced to the WNBA Finals, averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. The forward did it again during her team’s 85-80 victory over the Washington Mystics. Laney-Hamilton finished with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the win. As the Liberty hope to avenge last season’s finals loss, Laney-Hamilton will be key.

After four WNBA seasons with limited minutes, Alanna Smith had a breakout season with the Sky in 2023, starting 35 games and averaging 9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. She built on that success in her first game with the Lynx, scoring a career-high 22 points to lead Minnesota past the Storm, 83-70. Smith was 8 of 15 from the floor and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, while also contributing in other ways. The forward added 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. Minnesota’s prospects this season are uncertain, aside from Napheesa Collier, who is the team’s center. But Smith proved himself as a viable second option and complement to Collier.