Basketball fans willing to pay premium to see Indiana Fever face the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark posing for photos before the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

NEW YORK – Rookie Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever are playing to sell-out crowds on the road, and the June 23 meeting with the host Chicago Sky will not be an exception.

In fact, as of June 21, ticket prices were averaging about US$350 (S$470) – an unheard of number for a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) game.

The two teams already have met twice this season in Indianapolis, with Clark squaring off against fellow rookie Angel Reese, with whom she had history in college.

Such interest would seem to bestow a certain distinction on this match-up and others between the Eastern Conference foes, although many players insist otherwise. A “rivalry” this is not, they say. Until it is.

“For us, it’s just a game of basketball,” Clark said. “But if (rivalry talk) is going to help move the game forward, absolutely, that’s amazing. That’s what it should be.”

Record television viewership tuned in for the most recent Fever-Sky game, a 91-83 victory for host Indiana on June 16. The Fever (7-10) enter on a four-game winning streak as they continue a five-game road trip that started with the 91-79 win at the Atlanta Dream in front of a record WNBA crowd in the city on June 21.

NaLyssa Smith (21 points), Kelsey Mitchell (18), and Clark (16) led five Fever players in double figures. Indiana have won four straight games for the first time since 2015.

Chicago snapped a four-game skid with the 83-72 win over the Dallas Wings on June 20 in the opener of a four-game homestand.

Chennedy Carter and Marina Mabrey paced the Sky with 19 points apiece, while Reese contributed 16 points and a career-best 18 rebounds.

That marked the seventh straight game in which Reese has posted a double-double, setting a WNBA rookie record.

To Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon, the record simply is a by-product of Reese’s intensity.

“She’s just out there to win. She’s not out there to break records,” Weatherspoon said.

“She’s out there to win, just competing every night and playing hard. It’s paying off for her and it’s paying off for us. We’re super proud of her. There’s some greater things to come.”

Fellow rookie Kamilla Cardoso flirted with her own double-double for Chicago (5-9), contributing nine points and 11 boards.

Cardoso’s South Carolina Gamecocks topped Clark and Iowa for the women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament title in April. Iowa got past Reese and Louisiana State University in the Elite Eight, avenging a loss to the Tigers in the 2023 national championship game.

Indiana are 2-0 against Chicago this season, winning both previous meetings at home.