It was a shootout, at first. A back and forth affair, with jump shots and layups and all manner of scoring falling at will, and not a whole lot of defense to be found. When the dust cleared after a torrid first quarter, the Sky were up by nine, 31-22, and nobody thought that lead was safe.
But it was.
A season-high in first quarter points lead to a season-high in points at halftime, with 54. That offensive explosion continued in the third and fourth quarters with 27 and 22 points, respectively, and lead to a season-high in scoring for Chicago, at 106 points. And as they say, the game was not as close as the score indicated.
Elena Delle Donne played none of the fourth quarter and only part of the third, and ended up with 19 points, six rebounds, and six assists. She was all over the court, affecting every facet of the game. She was also an important part of a stifling defense, especially in the second and third quarters; after that 22-point first, they held them to a combined 24. The reason for their improvement?
"We didn't really change much," said Delle Donne. "It was more just trying to stick to our scheme, make them uncomfortable. I think we got a lot of deflections in that second quarter, which was great. So, just make their passes uncomfortable, try to apply a little bit more pressure, and it was really effective."
It was not just by how much the Sky won tonight, but by how. The Fever, known for the fast break and bench depth, were soundly outplayed in all both arenas. Chicago outscored Indiana by 11 points in the fast break, 21-10 and outscored their bench by 11, 50-39. The Sky, says Delle Donne, concentrated on those two things in the practices leading up to the game.
"That was a big focus for us," said Delle Donne. "We know that their transition offense has gotten way better this season, so, that was a big focus yesterday. We watched a lot of film, walked through some of their transition offense. They're great in that quick strike, so we wanted to slow them down."
The Fever had some bad breaks this game: good looks not falling, layups clanging off unforgiving rims, unfavorable refereeing. They never could quite hold on long enough to make a run; every time they put their foot on the gas, the Sky buckled down and weathered the storm. Indiana shot 37% from the field and 50% from three-point range, compared to 63% and 50% for Chicago.
The Sky now sit in the second seed for the Eastern Conference, mere percentage points away from the Washington Mystics. The Sky take on the Eastern-leading New York Liberty at home on August 7th, at 8:30 pm. The Fever, slipping closer and closer to the 5th position and out of the playoffs, take on the Atlanta Dream at home on August 7th, at 7 pm.