Veteran response leads Sky past Sun in Game 2
The Sky’s three-headed monster — Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley — combined for 45 points Wednesday. James Wade’s starting five all finished in double figures.
No one holds the Sky to a higher standard than Courtney Vandersloot.
So, when she was neutralized by the Sun in Game 1 of the semifinals, scoring just five points and dishing two assists, no one was more disappointed in her game than she was.
Her performance was uncharacteristic and had a negative impact on the game’s outcome. If Vandersloot scores one more field goal and hands out two more assists in that game, there’s a different result, and she knows that.
But dwelling on a bad game does nothing for the Sky’s floor general. The only answer when you lay an egg is to show up better the next time.
“The bounce-back is most important,” Vandersloot said before the Sky’s 85-77 victory against the Sun which evened the best-of-five series at 1-1.
With seven seconds to go in the first half, Alyssa Thomas heaved the ball to DeWanna Bonner who was already more than halfway downcourt. Bonner’s transition layup was all but guaranteed until a trailing Vandersloot caught her at the rim.
Standing at 5-8, Vandersloot blocked the shot of the 6-4 Bonner. It was just the kind of night Vandersloot was having. She refused to lose and wouldn’t let herself get beat, on any play.
Vandersloot is the reason Candace Parker decided to sign with the Sky in 2021. In the last two years the veteran point guard has embraced a swagger and confidence that she kept under wraps in the first 10 years of her career.
On Wednesday, she didn’t hold back, smiling after backdoor layups and igniting the Wintrust Arena fans with crowd-pumping screams on every highlight play. She finished with 10 points, eight assists, three rebounds, one turnover and the block on Bonner.
“This is her franchise,” Parker said.
The average WNBA experience of the Sky’s starting five is 11 years. Sky coach/GM James Wade didn’t need to say much to his team to fire them up. Allie Quigley went 0-for-5 from three-point range in Game 1 and finished with 13 points on 3-for-6 shooting from deep Wednesday.
Parker followed her dominant Game 1 performance with another one. She had a team-high 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one steal. She went 3-for-4 from the three-point line.
“We’re in a situation where we see an opportunity to win,” Wade said. “She wants to do everything in her power to get another championship.”
The Sky were limited to 26 points in the paint in Game 1 and nearly doubled that Wednesday night, finishing with 42 inside points. They were able to cut, get back-door passes and move the ball without disruption, allowing them to enforce their will and control the pace and style of play.
In Sunday’s loss, there were 15 lead changes and nine ties. But on Wednesday, the Sky led from the first quarter on. The only time the Sun led the game was in the first 10 seconds when Jonquel Jones hit a three to open the game. She finished the game with a game-high 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Natisha Hiedeman had 14 points and three rebounds.
Bonner was limited to just two points that came from the free-throw line. She shot 0-for-6 from the field. Thomas finished the game with seven points and 10 rebounds. The Sky allowed the Sun to go on a 21-9 run in the fourth quarter that cut their 20-point lead to eight in the final minute.
The Sky’s veteran three-headed monster combined for 45 points. Kahleah Copper added 12 and Emma Meesseman had 14.
As this series heads to Uncasville, Connecticut, for Games 3 and 4, the Sky will need two more concentrated efforts from their certified leaders to advance.
“This team has an opportunity,” Parker said. “We can’t not seize it.”