Caitlin Clark and Indiana rally from 15 down to beat host Phoenix 88-82 before sellout of 17,000

PHOENIX (AP) — Caitlin Clark had 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds and the Indiana Fever rallied for an 88-82 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.

Clark was one rebound shy of a triple-double, yet finished just 4 of 14 from the field and 2 of 10 from 3-point range. But she made a pair of free throws with 19.9 seconds to play to put the Fever up three. Indiana had trailed by as many as 15 in the first half.

Kelsey Mitchell’s basket with 35 seconds left gave Indiana the lead for good. She made two free throws with 12.9 seconds to seal it. Mitchell scored 16 points, all in the second half.

Aliyah Boston had 17 points and eight rebounds and NaLyssa Smith added 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Fever, who closed out June 7-4 after going 1-8 in May. Temi Fagbenle had 10 points for Indiana.

“When the challenges came, we stepped up and we attacked them head-on. I couldn’t be more proud of my entire team,” Fever coach Christie Sides said.

Clark played all but 33 seconds in the game despite not feeling well, Sides said.

Brittney Griner scored 24 points, Diana Taurasi had 19 and Natasha Cloud added 15 for Phoenix.

Kahleah Copper, who entered Sunday third in the WNBA at 22.7 points per game, scored just seven points on 3-of-15 shooting before fouling out in the final seconds. However, she had most of the responsibility of guarding Clark.

It marked the first on-court meeting between Taurasi and Clark. Taurasi, 42, is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer in her 20th WNBA season. She played at Connecticut when Clark was born. The 22-year-old Fever rookie said before the game Taurasi was one of her idols going back to when she first learned about the WNBA.

When Clark was drafted No. 1 overall after a career at Iowa that featured back-to-back NCAA Championship games, Taurasi said, “Reality is coming,” when asked about Clark entering the league. Later Taurasi said she meant that it would be a difficult transition to pro basketball.

“It's amazing to see what Caitlin has done, and the one thing I really love about her is she loves the game,” Taurasi said after the game. “She's put the work in, and there's been a lot of things thrown at her, and she keeps getting better every single game. Her future is super bright.”

The Mercury jumped to an 8-0 lead and was ahead 49-38 at halftime, with Griner and Taurasi each scoring 13 points. The Fever went on a 17-0 run to lead by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but Phoenix closed within 67-64 at the end of the period.

“We were emphasizing get out and run, move the ball and get some good shots,” Boston said.

Taurasi said, “We maybe settled a little too much, got stagnant, had better movement (in the first half). They were running faster than us.”

There were two skirmishes during the first half, both during dead ball situations. Griner was assessed a technical foul while the teams were lining up for a free throw in the first quarter, and the second one occurred after a foul had been called and the teams got into it while huddling near each other under the Indiana basket.

Two players from each team were given technicals — Fagbenle and Erica Wheeler for the Fever, and Copper and Cloud for the Mercury.

In the final minute of the half, Smith was charged with a flagrant-1 foul against Taurasi. Cloud later received a flagrant-1 for a foul against Katie Lou Samuelson, who made both free throws to cut the deficit to 78-77 with 2:17 remaining.

Phoenix hosts Connecticut on Monday. Indiana finishes a five-game road trip at Las Vegas on Tuesday.