As time ticked off the clock in the Sky’s 86-83 victory Sunday against the Sun in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals, the 7,421 fans at Wintrust Arena grew progressively louder.
“The crowd was popping,” Kahleah Copper said after the Sky took a 2-1 series lead. “Every possession, every deflection, every and-one, I thought the energy was unmatched. They played a major part.”
On the opening play of the game, Copper stole the ball for a fast-break layup. Fans were on their feet and stayed that way for much of the game.
The Sky have drawn decent crowds all year, but none like the one Sunday afternoon. It was their second-largest crowd of the season but the loudest by far.
Sky president Adam Fox told the Sun-Times that every member of the Bulls bought tickets to the game. Most of them were spotted sitting courtside. DeMar DeRozan had a line of kids and adults near him at halftime wanting to grab a photo.
This wasn’t DeRozan’s first or even second Sky game. He has been supporting the team since the Bulls acquired him in August. Teammates Patrick Williams and Coby White have been supporting the Sky all season.
“We didn’t have to talk about [coming to the game as a team],” DeRozan said. “It’s just automatically understood. We had a day off, and it was an opportunity for us to come out and support.”
This is the Sun’s third straight year in the semifinals and the Sky’s first since 2016.
Though the Sky haven’t made deep playoff runs consistently, they aren’t far behind the Sun in terms of experience. Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley have been part of every Sky postseason run, and Candace Parker is a WNBA champion and Finals MVP.
That experience, combined with the challenges presented during the regular season, prepared the Sky for the physicality of this series.
In moments when they’ve allowed the Sun to go on runs, committed turnovers or fallen into shooting slumps, the Sky haven’t come undone. That’s a significant difference from the Sky team fans saw during the regular season.
Sun coach Curt Miller said people need to throw out the Sky’s 16-16 regular-season record. That team and the one leading the semifinal series are not the same.
The Sky’s poise and persistence have them one win from reaching the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2014 and the second time in franchise history. In 2014, they were swept by the Mercury in the best-of-five series.
But the Sky are only letting themselves think about Game 4 on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena.
“We still have a lot of basketball to play in this series,” Vandersloot said. “I’m not looking past the next game because we still have more work to do.”
By the time Sky coach/general manager James Wade and his team made their way out of the locker room after Game 3, fans were eagerly waiting to snap some selfies with them.
Copper, who finished with a playoff career-high 26 points on 64.3% shooting, stopped to give the fans what they wanted. It was fitting because Copper was the one getting the fans going all game.
The Sky want the fans to keep it up.
“It really gives us energy,” Parker said. “Bring a friend, bring a cousin, bring whoever to come out Wednesday and keep that energy up.”