'Reality check': Caitlin Clark 1, Diana Taurasi 0. Rookie's near triple-double wins over GOAT

Caitlin Clark and Diana Taurasi hold their hands on their hips while laughing on court

The final score Sunday was Indiana Fever 88, Phoenix Mercury 82.

For some followers of the WNBA, that might translate to Caitlin Clark 1, Diana Taurasi 0.

And soon after the game, the Fever's social media team also earned a W with a post on X at the expense of Taurasi and the Mercury.

Sunday's game at Footprint Center in Phoenix was the first meeting between Taurasi, the league's all-time leading scorer playing in her 20th season, and Clark, college basketball's all-time leading scorer playing in her first professional season.

The Mercury marketed the game as "The GOAT vs. The Rook."

Read more: Caitlin Clark cuts off reporters for ignoring teammate Aliyah Boston at news conference

The Rook's team emerged with the victory after trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half. Clark played all but 33 seconds and nearly had a triple-double — 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds — but shot four of 14 from the field and two of 10 from three-point range.

Clark was feeling under the weather, Fever coach Christie Sides said after the game, and did not attend her team's postgame news conference. ESPN did get a brief on-court interview with Clark after the game.

"I'm just happy we won," Clark said. "It was cool to play against [Taurasi], and obviously a really great game. This crowd was absolutely incredible."

Tarausi finished with 19 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Naturally, the 42-year-old was asked about Clark, 22, afterward.

Caitlin Clark fouls Diana Taurasi.
The Mercury's Diana Taurasi, right, is fouled by the Fever's Caitlin Clark on Sunday in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

"It's amazing what Caitlin's been able to do in her short career so far," Taurasi said. "It’s just been nothing short of remarkable. The one thing that I really love about her, she loves the game. You can tell she's put the work in. Even throughout her short WNBA career, it's been a lot of pressure, a lot of things thrown at her, and she keeps showing up and keeps getting better every single game.

Read more: Angel Reese says Caitlin Clark gets 'special whistle.' It blew after Reese's blow to Clark's head

"So her future is super bright, and being a veteran and being in this league for a long, long time, it is pretty cool to see that going into the future."

It was high praise from the veteran compared to her preseason prediction for Clark, who was a huge star for Iowa, drawing record ratings for women's college basketball during March Madness last spring. Leading into the WNBA draft in mid-April, Taurasi was asked on "SportsCenter" what the league would have in store for Clark and other rookies.

"Reality is coming," Taurasi said. "You know, there’s levels to this thing. And that’s just life. We all went through it. You see it on the NBA side and you’re gonna see it on this side where you look superhuman playing against 18-year-olds, but you gonna come with some grown women that have been playing professional basketball for a long time.

"Not saying that it’s not gonna translate, ‘cause when you’re great at what you do, you’re just gonna get better. But there is gonna be a transition period where you’re gonna have to give yourself some grace as a rookie and it might take a little bit longer for some people.”

Read more: Granderson: Caitlin Clark can handle the bruises of being a WNBA rookie

Since then, Taurasi's response sometimes has been reduced to the first three words. And following Sunday's game, the Fever social media team made a thinly veiled reference to that with two words.

"Reality check," the team posted, along with the hashtag #FeverWin and a photo of the team celebrating.

The second of three games between the teams is July 12 in Indianapolis.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.