Caitlin Clark surprising when ARGUING with referees and starting lineup CHANGES in Fever’s LOSS to Mystics

Fever coach Christie Sides silent on lineup change in loss vs. last-place Mystics

The starting lineup also was altered three games ago.

Fever coach Christie Sides looking at Caitlin Clark and Mystics player.

INDIANAPOLIS — Mere days following the Indiana Fever’s best win of the 2024 season over the league’s-best New York Liberty, the Fever floundered at home versus the Washington Mystics. Three passive quarters to start Wednesday’s matinee paved the way for the Fever’s spirited comeback. It was futile in the eventual 89-84 loss inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Indiana trailed by 21 points heading into the final quarter.

Fever head coach Christie Sides altered the starting lineup Wednesday, giving third-year guard Lexie Hull her debut start of the season in place of the regular NaLyssa Smith. So it was Caitlin Clark, Kelsey Mitchell, Hull, Katie Lou Samuelson and Aliyah Boston. There were hints that the change was coming in Tuesday’s practice, due to the colored jerseys each player was wearing.

Sides was asked about it pregame, and said they’re going to play with what they need right now. Despite the more defensive-oriented move to insert Hull into the lineup, the Fever gave up 51 points in the first half. That’s tied for the second-most Washington has scored this season. Hull played eight minutes in the first half and 12 in the second. Smith played 12 and 14, respectively.

“I don’t think it impacted the whole game,” Sides said afterward. “That was a coach’s decision and I’m just gonna leave it at that.”

Sides was asked about it once more.

“That was just a coach’s decision and that’s where we’re gonna leave it.”

 

Christie Sides on today’s starting lineup change: “I don’t think it impacted the whole game. That was a coach’s decision and I’m just gonna leave it at that.” *another question about it* “That was just a coach’s decision and that’s where we’re gonna leave it.” Full clip:

A single change alters the whole Fever starting lineup

Although the adjustment on paper is Hull starting in place of Smith, it really can be seen as Samuelson starting over Smith. Because Samuelson has been at the 3 position lately and moved to the 4 for Wednesday for size purposes. Smith’s role, who’s usually been the more dynamic option besides Boston in the post, was pivotal with Boston getting into foul trouble.

“The biggest thing is defensively,” Samuelson said of the move from the 3 to the 4. “Just knowing how to guard, what our schemes are, to be honest making sure I know all the plays and all the positions. I think for me, I’m trying to just be myself, but in each role I’m put into.”

After the best win of the season, it can be controversial. It’s unknown whether Sides has been sitting on this decision for some time. She very well could’ve been and the Fever could have been practicing it. But if it was more off the cuff because Hull had an excellent fourth quarter in the victory over New York last Saturday, that left one day to practice before playing the Mystics.

The Fever are still young and Sides has rotated through many different starting lineups.

“Yeah, just go with whatever coach puts in there,” Clark, the point guard, said. “I trust my teammates. No matter who’s on the court, you gotta compete as hard as you can… I think collectively we could have worked a little bit better together from a defensive schematic perspective… didn’t really execute defensively or really offensive until we got into the fourth.”

Caitlin Clark piles on stats, but Aliyah Boston goes quiet

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) speaks with an official Wednesday, July 10, 2024, during the game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Mystics defeated the Fever, 89-84.Grace Smith/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK
Clark’s career-high is 30 points at Washington in June, where she tied the rookie record with seven 3-pointers. The Fever had beaten the Mystics in both prior meetings this season. On Wednesday, Clark scored 29 points, tallied 13 assists, made five triples, and also had five steals and three blocks. Her hands were everywhere, but that doesn’t excuse her defense necessarily. The Fever got burned on back cuts by Mystic guards in the first quarter.

In Saturday’s win over the Liberty, Boston was incredibly efficient by scoring eight baskets on 12 shots. Boston only scored six points Wednesday and attempted four shots, the second-fewest for her all season. She turned the ball over five times, which accounted for the lack of shots and didn’t help in getting in rhythm. She was also one of three Fever players with five personal fouls.

Boston has recently been a go-to option as the Fever feed through the post, but not on Wednesday.

 

“She only played like 20 minutes, right,” Sides said. “She got into foul trouble early. We’re trying to get the ball into her. I thought [Mystics’ Stefanie Dolson] did a pretty good job of really making it hard for her to try to get any touch. We had several turnovers trying to get the ball in a high-low situation… we’re always gonna look to play inside-out and get AB touches and get [Smith] touches.”

The Fever — now 9-14 — will look for a redemption win Friday at home versus the Phoenix Mercury. The Fever came back at the Mercury by double digits on June 30.

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