DeWanna Bonner scored a career-high 34 points to help the Mercury lock in their sixth consecutive win against the Chicago Sky. Although this was the first matchup between these two teams this season, Chicago went 0-5 last season against Phoenix, losing both regular season games and three in the WNBA Finals.
Bonner put on a phenomenal performance Tuesday night, getting her team over a 19 point deficit by racking up 16 points in the third quarter alone. The only other player that managed to keep up with Bonner offensively was Elena Delle Donne for Chicago. She managed to end the night with 32 points, even after going scoreless in the third quarter.
"It's huge, obviously a really tough loss, I felt like that third quarter we just went really cold for a while," Delle Donne stated. "We were able to kind of get the momentum back, but at home of a great team like that and with great players stepping up and going off you can't let them back in."
This game was pivotal to Chicago as they just acquired center Ericka De Souza from the Atlanta Dream and released star center Sylvia Fowles to the Minnesota Lynx. De Souza, who has averaged 8.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, ended the first half with no points and just three rebounds as she struggled inside against Phoenix's aggressive defensive players, most notably Brittney Griner.
However, De Souza picked up the pace in the final quarter and hit two critical shots with just under five minutes in the fourth to keep Chicago in the game. She ended the game with only four points matching her four rebounds.
Both teams came out the gates strong offensively and immediately begin putting points up on the board. Although Chicago led most of the opening quarter, Phoenix trailed close behind, only allowing the lead to reach four points. But the Sky came out very aggressive on the boards and outrebounded Phoenix 14-7.
"Definitely coach brought that to our attention—just our rebounding and how much they were out rebounding us," stated Griner, Mercury's top rebounder. "We needed to go in and take away those second chance points they were getting."
In the second quarter, Chicago began to pull away with thanks to Delle Donne, who scored 16 points in the second half and helped put the Sky on a 13-0 run. Cappie Pondexter, who remained scoreless in the first quarter, found her rhythm and hit four consecutive shots that helped keep a large lead over Phoenix.
Griner, who ended the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds, began to grow frustrated with Chicago dominating their home court, and she picked up two personal fouls and a technical foul. Griner even managed to get away with shoving Sky guard Allie Quigley into the stands after losing the ball on a fast break. Phoenix goes into halftime down 44-31.
Bonner came out in the second half very aggressive on offensive. Bonner, who is a 6'4 guard, took advantage of mismatches and used her ball handling skills to consistently penetrate the paint. She created many problems for Chicago's inside defense and was able to draw fouls as they struggled to slow her down.
Bonner shot 11 of 11 from the free throw line, and scored her 30th consecutive free throw. Phoenix outscored the Sky in the third quarter 28-14. Bonner's 16 points was the most points scored in a single quarter by any Mercury player.
"I just wanted to win. We came out pretty sluggish (tonight)—we got down by a lot and we weren't playing our game," Bonner stated. "I just wanted to be aggressive (at the end)—tried to get things going. That's what they preach to me so that was what I was trying to do."
The fourth quarter started off with back-and-forth scoring on both sides, but Phoenix maintained a small lead over the Sky for the majority. Delle Donne's three-point play gave Chicago a 78-76 lead with just four seconds on the game clock. The ball is then inbounded to Bonner, who took a jumper, but then was bailed out by Pondexter who committed the foul. Bonner hit both free throws and carried her team into overtime.
Monique Currie opened up overtime with a jumper, giving them a lead soon taken away by Delle Donne, who gets to the line. Similar to Bonner, Delle Donne ended her night 11 of 11 from the free-throw line as well. Bonner fired off back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Mercury a one-point lead.
With four seconds left on the game clock, Vandersloot fouled Leilani Mitchell, who hit one of her two free throws. After a 20 second timeout, Chicago gave the final shot to Delle Donne, who missed it and thus ended the Mercury's losing streak.
The Sky, who are 7-1 at home, head into the second half of their season pleased to play their next five games in Chicago at the All State Arena. Friday night they face off against the Los Angeles Sparks, who are looking to climb the conference's rankings as their star player Candace Parker returns. Moreover, the Mercury leaves home and hits the road to play Tulsa Thursday night and then Atlanta Sunday afternoon.