5 takeaways from the first day of WNBA play

WNBA opening night gave fans their first look at Caitlin Clark as a professional, the Aces on the hunt for a three-peat, and Alyssa Thomas continuing her stat-stuffing ways with another triple-double.

Here’s what we learned from the first slate of games:

Fever have work to do

With the arrival of Clark, there is an unprecedented amount of hype around Indiana. But there is 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 its way up from the bottom of the league. That was obvious in a 92-71 loss to the Sun, as the Fever committed 25 turnovers and allowed five Sun players to finish in double figures. Thomas led the way with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. While the Sun showcased balance, the Fever struggled to score outside of Clark (20 points) and NaLyssa Smith (13). Clark will need to adjust to the league, and the Fever need to develop chemistry.

The Mercury are the real deal

The Mercury made three big additions in the 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 played without Brittney Griner, who is out with a fractured toe. The Mercury stuck with the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces before falling 89-80. Phoenix played a fast-paced game, with 76 shot attempts, and looked like a team that could contend for a title. The Mercury were balanced, 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 level of talent will be a tough combination to stop as the season progresses.

DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris excel in starting roles

After coming off the bench last season, DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris both started for the Sun’s opening game against the Fever. Carrington finished with 16 points, while also being tasked with guarding Clark. Carrington helped hold Clark to 5-of-15 shooting as the rookie had 10 turnovers. Meanwhile, Harris went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to 16 points. The duo will likely stay in starting roles throughout the season, and both look ready to contribute.

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton is still the Liberty’s unsung hero

The Liberty are a team full of stars – 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.

Alanna Smith builds on breakout season

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, putting up 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 outlook this season is uncertain, outside of Napheesa Collier, who is the team’s centerpiece. But Smith proved herself as a viable second option and complement to Collier.

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