Round 2 of revived rivalry between Sky and Fever will be decided by a few key factors

INDIANAPOLIS — Round 1 of the revived rivalry between the Sky and Fever went to the latter.

The game June 1 was decided by one point, which is worth noting considering the hip check heard round the world resulted in one made free throw by Fever guard Caitlin Clark.

But let’s not live in the past, shall we?

In the two weeks since the Sky and Fever met, others have begun to find their way. Rookies have created some separation among themselves, and the league has begun to take shape. Near the bottom of it are the eighth-place Sky and 10th-place Fever.

When it comes to Sunday’s rematch, there are a few things to keep an eye on that could fan the rivalry’s flames.

The first is Angel Reese’s double-double dominance.

Efficiency has been Reese’s area of concern since entering the league. After two games shooting 50% or better, Reese went 3-for-10 on Friday against the Mystics. Still, she was able to secure her fifth consecutive double-double.

She is the only rookie to average a double-double so far, with 12.2 points and 10 rebounds per game through 12 games. She’s also the only rookie to eclipse 100 points and 100 rebounds.

This brings us to our next point of emphasis: Clark.

Reese and Clark don’t compete directly against one another because they play different positions. But both are stars tasked with leading their franchise back to relevance after periods of regression.

Clark is fourth in the league with six assists per game and 12th with 219 points, which leads all rookies. Give Reese the edge over Clark in that “matchup.”

Which brings us to the next key component: Chennedy Carter.

The Sky have struggled in the last three games with slow starts and an ineffective offense at times. The remedy has seemed to be Carter’s presence on the floor. But coach Teresa Weatherspoon has made it clear she has no intention of making changes to her starting lineup.

In the teams’ first meeting, Carter scored 19 points and was a plus-6 in 30 minutes. Guards Marina Mabrey and Dana Evans were minus-2 and minus-4, respectively.

If Weatherspoon isn’t going to make Carter a starter, how she uses her off the bench will be critical in the Sky’s attempt to snap a three-game skid. The competitive fireworks between Carter and Clark also will be worth watching.

Last, but certainly not least, is the battle between South Carolina coach Dawn Staley’s NCAA champion bigs: the Sky’s Kamilla Cardoso and the Fever’s Aliyah Boston.

Cardoso still was saddled with a minutes restriction June 1 and wasn’t yet in Weatherspoon’s lineup. She was, however, part of Weatherspoon’s closing unit. In the final minutes, Cardoso committed a costly foul on Boston, resulting in an and-one.

Along with Reese and Clark, Boston and Cardoso are keys to their franchise’s future. Their head-to-head matchup will be one of the deciding factors in the outcome of Sunday’s game — and potential playoff series for years to come.

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