ROSEMONT, IL — The Chicago Sky are a resilient group. With 54.9 seconds left to play in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals, the Sky dug deep to overcome a slow start and defeat the Los Angeles Sparks 70-66.
Going into a playoff elimination game isn’t ideal, even if it’s at home. The pressure inside the Allstate Arena for the Sky was palpable to start today’s game.
Los Angeles built a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter, and it seemed as if they would easily advance to the WNBA Finals.
“It was a real great, concerted effort,” head coach Pokey Chatman said. “[Our player’s] were aggressive… And also trusted the process. We had some unique lineups in [throughout] the game.”
Chatman has been forced to play more of her bench in the absence of Elena Delle Donne. Today, the Sky played ten players and looked to each of them to carry the team’s momentum from play-to-play.
Rookie center Imani Boyette played like a seasoned veteran in the fourth quarter to guide Chicago defensively. She finished the game with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and one block shot.
“It’s a pride thing,” Boyette said. “ I was really disappointed with myself the first two games. I have to make sure I’m rebounding, making players think twice about coming into the paint… I haven’t been doing that, and that was my goal today.”
The Sky shook off a slow start in the first quarter and found their stride as a team late in the first half.
Chicago was able to will itself back into the game by executing on both ends of the floor.
On offense, Chatman looked to veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot. She finished the game with a team-high 17 points and 5 assists but ultimately showed her value in the closing seconds of the game.
Vandersloot scored the Sky’s last four points to propel them to victory.
Chicago, fighting for their playoff lives, did not go out quietly and forced Los Angeles to play harder than they have the past two games.
For much of the fourth quarter, it was a one-point game. Both teams determined to come out the victor.
“I’ve always admired how hard [the Sky] have competed,” Los Angeles head coach Brian Agler said. “Compared to us, [the Sky] were extremely hungry to win… Momentum can play in your favor playing on your home court.”
For the first time all series, the Sparks found themselves in unfamiliar territory. They managed just 66 points – the team’s lowest total of the series – and didn’t have the poise they showed throughout the first two games.
This year’s MVP Nneka Ogwumike and forward Candace Parker led Los Angeles with a combined 31 points and 24 rebounds.
This main issue for Los Angeles, however, was mentally they couldn’t close the series in a game in which they held a 15-point lead.
Los Angeles’ lineup stifled the Chicago offensive attack for much of the first half. The Sky, though, managed to find their rhythm and carry it throughout the second half en route to a Game 3 win.
Chicago, in the playoffs, has found themselves in similar situations the past two years.
Last year the Indiana Fever upset the Chicago Sky in the first round.
This year, while the Sky were able to defeat the Atlanta Dream, Chicago is now trying to tie this series against a championship-hungry Sparks squad.
Nothing has come easy for the Sky.
They’ll now look to even the series in Game 4 against Los Angeles on Tuesday.