Sun bounce back with win over Fever while foul trouble hinders Caitlin Clark again: 4 takeaways

The Connecticut Sun are back to their winning ways.

After suffering their first regular-season loss to the New York Liberty on Saturday, the Sun responded in dominant fashion, routing the Indiana Fever 89-72. Indiana had a brief lead at 7-5, but Connecticut gained control with a DeWanna Bonner 3-pointer and didn’t trail for the final 37 minutes.

This was the third meeting of the year between the Sun and the Fever, and there was some hope on Indiana’s side that the young Fever were closing the gap after turning a 21-point loss on opening night into a four-point defeat one week later. Instead, the margin between the two teams has increased again, with Connecticut firmly in championship contention and Indiana fighting to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Fever came into this matchup with a little momentum, having won two of their previous three games. But they put up a defensive stinker, falling behind by 20 points in the first half as they allowed the Sun to shoot 61 percent from the field and 6 of 8 on 3-pointers. Connecticut let go of the rope in the second half after the lead crested to 28, but the Sun still had five players finish with at least 10 points and had 22 assists to 10 turnovers.

Even as Connecticut raced out to a 9-0 record, coach Steph White was disappointed that more than half of those wins came by single digits. She wanted the Sun to play with more consistency and establish a higher standard. Monday’s effort, even if against one of the worst teams in the league, has Connecticut on the right track.

Carrington remains a matchup nightmare for Clark, Fever

DiJonai Carrington stole Caitlin Clark’s mojo on opening night, as her physical defense disrupted the rookie in her first pro game and set the tone for what Clark has seen throughout the first third of the season. One month later, Clark and the Fever still don’t have answers for Carrington.

Carrington was aggressive in her coverage of Clark yet again, limiting the first-year point guard to 10 points and two assists, though only three turnovers. As the Fever labored to stay within 20 points in the second half, coach Christie Sides benched Clark in the third quarter and didn’t bring her back in, saving Clark from having to deal with the full-court pressure from the Sun.

Carrington also gave the Indiana defense fits. She ran the floor hard in transition and was the target for multiple outlets after Connecticut stops. She was able to get to the basket easily, as all but three of her 11 shot attempts came directly at the rim. Carrington’s 22 points led all scorers and she had a game-high three steals, punctuated by one at the end of the second quarter that she converted into a fast-break bucket at the halftime buzzer. — Sabreena Merchant, WNBA staff writer

Fever’s first-quarter woes continue

As has been the case for most of the season, the Fever spent the majority of Monday’s contest playing from behind. Entering their game against the Sun, Indiana had recorded a league-worst 114.7 defensive rating in the first quarter and a league-worst negative 23.8 net rating in the opening frame. Against Connecticut, Indiana trailed by only three points at the 5:08 mark of the first quarter, but Connecticut closed the quarter on a 14-3 run to blow the game open. It created a margin Indiana wouldn’t overcome.

Connecticut established its paint presence in the first quarter, making five of its six field goal attempts, and hitting three of its first four 3-pointers as well. The Sun’s performance in the first set the stage for what was to come — Connecticut shot 50 percent from 3-point range. — Ben Pickman, WNBA staff writer

Foul trouble plagues Clark again

In Clark’s WNBA debut against the Sun on May 14, the star guard dealt with foul trouble. She picked up two fouls in the first quarter of that contest and finished with four on the night. When the two teams met a second time on May 20, Clark picked up five fouls (though she finished with 17 points and five assists).

Yet again Clark dealt with foul trouble when playing Connecticut. It impacted Indiana’s rotations and defense as it limited Clark’s aggressiveness on that end of the floor. Sun guards continued to put Clark in pick-and-roll action and attacked her on downhill drives. Connecticut’s Carrington, in particular, scored 15 points in the opener, 13 points on May 20 and a team-high 22 on seven of 11 shooting on Monday night.

On the offensive end, Clark finished with 10 points, but she also logged career-lows in assists (two) and rebounds (zero), while playing a career-low 22 minutes. The scoreline was greater than 20 points for much of the second half, as Clark sat the final 14:41 of the game. — Pickman

What’s next for the Fever?

One bright spot for the Fever was center Aliyah Boston, who finished with a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double. It was just the second time this year that Boston recorded 10-plus points and rebounds. She’ll look to replicate that success Thursday when Indiana closes out its five-game Commissioner’s Cup stretch against the Atlanta Dream.

In theory, the upcoming schedule presents a stretch in which Indiana can make up some ground in the standings. They face both the Dream and Chicago Sky twice, and the Washington Mystics once over their next five games. At 3-10, Indiana has much to improve upon. But they are 0-7 against the New York Liberty, Las Vegas Aces and Sun and 3-3 in their other six games. — Pickman

Required reading

(Photo: David Butler II / USA Today)

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