Sky have adjustments to make in Game 2, but Candace Parker doesn’t need to change a thing
Candace Parker was one steal short of completing the second 5x5 game in WNBA history. She recorded the first during her rookie year in 2008.
Candace Parker’s self-awareness is next level. When the seven-time All-Star speaks about her game or her team, it’s without influence from outside praise or criticism.
Her ability to assess herself is so objective that when she said “I’m going to hit it,” referring to her three-point shot entering the Sky’s semifinal series against the Sun, that was all the confirmation anybody needed.
On Sunday night, Parker didn’t just make good on her proclamation — she made history.
Her 19 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and six blocks made her the first player in WNBA history with 15-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a playoff game. She was one steal short of completing the second 5x5 game in league history. She recorded the first during her rookie year in 2008.
If you asked her what it meant or how she felt about what many called a vintage Parker performance, she likely would respond with the same level-headed mentality she’s known for.
The Sky lost, so it meant nothing.
“Candace played incredibly,” Azura Stevens said after the Sky’s 68-63 loss Sunday in Game 1. “She was able to keep us alive. Especially in the second half. Whenever we needed a bucket, she answered.”
Parker shot 1-for-9 from three-point range in the first round against the Liberty. She went to the gym with family and her trainer Friday night to work on her shot, and it was reflected in her Game 1 performance. She was 3-for-9 from three, hitting two big shots in the fourth quarter to cut into the Sun’s eight-point lead.
But she couldn’t win the game alone. The Sky shot 35.3% en route to their lowest-scoring game of the season, which was the result of the Sun’s defense but also a lot of missed open looks. Parker realistically could have finished the game with a triple-double had the Sky converted more of their shots in the paint.
Adjustments for Game 2 on Wednesday start with the Sky enforcing their will.
The Sun controlled the game from the jump with their physicality on defense and in the paint. They got into passing lanes, hedged hard off of screens and took away the Sky’s inside game. They outrebounded the Sky 47-36.
There was little in-game adjustment from James Wade. Combined, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley shot 5-for-18 from the field and 1-for-9 from three-point range. Kahleah Copper was held scoreless through the second and third quarters, and the Sky’s bench contributed only nine points.
“They were given shots we could have easily made,” Wade said. “That part is just on us.”
Nearing the five-minute mark in the first quarter, a Sky play broke down. Emma Meesseman fumbled a pass inside from Parker before kicking it back out to her on the wing with two seconds left on the shot clock. Parker elevated and shot over Alyssa Thomas as she closed out. Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner stood under the basket with their eyes toward the rim and nothing to do but wait for the ball to drop through the net.
Parker followed her first three by emphatically blocking Bonner’s layup on the next play down the floor. Those two consecutive plays were an early indication of the game Parker was about to have.
But hers alone won’t be enough to blot out the Sun in the Sky’s pursuit of back-to-back titles.