Reese, Clark deliver with stars on hand for latest matchup between Sky, Fever


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CHICAGO — Angel Reese had just pulled off the best performance of her young career to help the Chicago Sky rally past the Indiana Fever and old college rival Caitlin Clark on Sunday.

There was one more thing to do before leaving the court. She shared an embrace with Naismith Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes, a big supporter of hers and one of several celebrities in a sellout crowd.

"She talked to me before I even entered my name into the draft, and she told me she believed in me," Reese said. "Being able to have that person in my corner is something I've always needed. She understands me, she knows what I've been through, what I'm going through."

A game featuring some of the WNBA's brightest young stars delivered in a huge way on a national stage.

Reese had her best outing, scoring a career-high 25 points to go with 16 rebounds to help the Sky rally from 15 down to beat the Fever 88-87. She extended her WNBA rookie record streak of double-doubles to eight games.

She is the first rookie since A'ja Wilson with 25-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in a single game, and she and Wilson are the only players in the league this season to have multiple games with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds.

Clark, meanwhile, finished with 17 points and a franchise-record 13 assists. She made five 3s and grabbed six rebounds, but the Fever couldn't hang on after winning their previous four games.

It was 84-all when Reese scored in the post to put Chicago on top for good with just under a minute remaining following a timeout, drawing a big roar from the crowd.

"I think people are just really excited to see this matchup and anticipate it," Clark said. "Obviously, it's two WNBA teams right in the Midwest, where I grew up. I think people in this area are just really excited about this matchup. You could just feel it driving up in the bus."

Clark saw lines of fans — many wearing her Iowa or Indiana jerseys — outside the arena hours before tipoff.

Courtside seats were going for $5,000 on Ticketmaster an hour before tipoff, and Chicago native Chance The Rapper, comedian Jason Sudeikis and New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson were all part of the sellout crowd. Swoopes got a standing ovation prior to the fourth quarter.

The first month of the season saw the WNBA draw its highest attendance since the league's second season in 1998. Some games have been moved to bigger arenas to accommodate the increased demand. Ratings across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ION and NBA TV were at an all-time high, averaging 1.32 million viewers and nearly tripling last season's average of 462,000.

"I love it," Reese said. "I love it for women's sports because they haven't sold out crowds in a long time. Being able to do this and being able to be here in this moment, continue to grow women's basketball is most import to me."

Clark and Reese met in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, with LSU beating Iowa in the championship game and the Hawkeyes getting payback in the Elite Eight this year. Their first two games as pros were marked by a different kind of drama than the one that unfolded on Sunday.

There was the hip check by guard Chennedy Carter on Clark away from the ball on an inbound play during Indiana's 71-70 win on June 1. Clark got knocked to the floor. Carter was called for a foul that resulted in one free throw, and the league later upgraded it to a flagrant-1.

Carter wound up on the ground again just over two weeks later, this time courtesy of Reese. Her right arm struck Clark's head on a drive to the basket, immediately resulting in a flagrant-1. Both players brushed it off afterward as a basketball play, though Reese also bemoaned "calls that weren't made" and said "I guess some people get a special whistle."

Sunday's game might have provided a glimpse of what's to come for the WNBA, with the celebrities out and the young stars performing at a high level. And it wasn't just Reese and Clark. Chicago's Kamilla Cardoso, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"Both teams tonight did an amazing job putting on a show," Reese said.

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball

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