Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young snatched the ball from Indiana Fever top-overall pick Caitlin Clark at center-court and scored without trouble. Six minutes remained in the second quarter of Saturday night’s contest at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. On the Fever’s next possession, Clark brought the ball up the floor once more, then committed her fourth turnover. 

The Aces didn’t score in response, but it indicated what was brewing. Fifty-two seconds later, Young pulled up beyond the arc and drained her second triple in roughly two minutes to give Las Vegas the two-point lead. The Aces outscored the Fever 17-6 in the final seven minutes before halftime and pulled away to win 99-80. The Fever were held to 10 second-quarter points. 

“I mean, it's hard being on the road like this and playing the teams that we have,” Fever forward Aliyah Boston said afterward. “But in the end (of the season), the middle of it even, we’re going to be prepared for what’s to come because we’ve had these tough games to start the season… where we’re continuing to figure out us and continue to figure out how we continue to be fluid.” 

“It’s gonna pay off in the end,” Boston added. 

The Fever opened Saturday night with an outstanding first quarter, leading 28-24 over the reigning WNBA champions. The fast start marked the only time the Fever have led over an opponent after the opening quarter through seven games this season. Their 28 points were the most they’ve scored in an opening 10 minutes in accompaniment. Perhaps, the booming start was unforeseen for an Indiana team on the younger side, compared to the veteran Aces. 

But the replacement of backup center Temi Fagbenle into the starting lineup worked. Fagbenle scored six points through eight minutes in the first quarter, tied for the team-lead. The chemistry between her and point guard Caitlin Clark is improving. It’s evident in the duo’s connection on long passes up the floor into the paint. They’ve used it in the past. It’s how the center scored her second bucket. Fagbenle, who runs the floor well, also scored coast-to-coast for another layup. 

“Temi does a really good job of understanding spacing,” Fever head coach Christie Sides explained. “She sets really good screens. She was able to get [Clark] open early and Cait was able to get around the defense with our spacing being so good in the first quarter — really find those open looks. She’s going to rebound every single time, she’s gonna defend. She brings an energy that is contagious to everyone else as well.” 

Fever's road fatigue

Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Aliyah Boston with Caitlin Clark before the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Fever carried over momentum from the team’s first win of the season Friday night against the Los Angeles Sparks into Saturday’s joust with the Aces. But fatigue kicked in. The Fever have played seven games in 12 days, the busiest schedule in the league, and it concluded with this three-game road trip out west. Meanwhile, the Aces hadn’t played in three games and are yet to play on the road this season. The more-rested squad put this game to bed going into the fourth. 

“I would just add that it is a long road trip,” Fever guard Lexie Hull noted. “We’ve played the most games out of anyone so far and our schedule hasn't been easy. So, I think we’re patient with ourselves — or understanding of that situation. But also the growth that we have had and we have one win under our belt. So I think that we’re just trying to stay as positive as possible.”

The Aces acquired their then-largest lead of 16 points by the end of the third quarter. Young caught fire in the first half and led Las Vegas with 17 points. Kelsey Plum posted 14 points in support. They outscored the Fever’s backcourt of Clark and Kelsey Mitchell by 20. The Indiana pairing was inefficient beyond the arc in both games on back-to-back days, though they’ve had to play exhaustive minutes. Boston and Fagbenle’s 16 points kept the Fever afloat by halftime, along with Clark’s three assists. Usual starting forward NaLyssa Smith and Hull contributed strongly. 

But A'ja Wilson took Young’s role in the second half, scoring 17 points to finish with 29 and also 16 rebounds. Clark’s former Iowa teammate, Kate Martin, also added 12 points in the second half. Clark and Martin met up pregame, hugged, and even checked in simultaneously. Las Vegas just has so many All-Star weapons from last season: Plum, Wilson and Young. The group were the first-overall picks back in the 2017-2019 WNBA Drafts. The Aces were also without last year’s All-Star starting point guard, Chelsea Gray, rehabbing from injury. Yet it didn’t alter the outcome.

But the first-quarter offense by the now 1-6 Fever could be the key to unlocking more wins. 

The Fever next play Tuesday night and host the Los Angeles Sparks.