Rosemont, Il— The sixth-ranked Chicago Sky ransacked the fourth-ranked Atlanta Dream in a clash of capabilities—the Dream, bringing their free throw A-game, and the Sky their offensive prowess, in hopes of annihilation.
Each team proudly stepped on the court with lethal weapons, locked and loaded — star players Elena Delle Donne and Angel McCoughtry had returned with gold medals from Rio, now the only question was which would ignite their squad to take home the gold at the Allstate Arena.
Right off the jump, ferocity ensued from both sides -- each showing a desperation to take home their first win of the restart of the season. The Dream maintained a lead for the first two minutes, but took a beating from the Sky’s sly Cappie Pondexter and quick-footed Courtney Vandersloot.
While Vandersloot slithered her way through the holes in her much taller opponent’s defense, Pondexter pummeled straight through Atlanta’s players, a hawk crushing its prey, for basket after basket to pull Chicago into the lead.
The Dream struggled to get their offense in sync — wailing up prayers alongside impossible shots, which only allowed the Sky to snag rebounds for fast breaks and consequently, buckets.
Once Chicago managed to lead by 10 points towards the end of the quarter, Coach Michael Cooper called a time out to snatch back his team’s motivation. Following the timeout, both Tiffany Hayes and McCoughtry stormed the hoop to get the Dream back in the game, and the duo successfully pulled their score up to close out the quarter a measly point behind the Sky.
Pondexter exploded into the second quarter at the same velocity as the first, sinking a shot in the first few seconds and topping that off with a fast break layup.
The guard commented on her stellar performance.
“I’m a scorer, so I have to keep shooting no matter what,” she said. “I can do a lot of different things, so it doesn’t matter if it’s falling or not.”
But shortly following Pondexter’s flame, the Dream took advantage getting calls off Imani Boyette when McCoughtry drew a technical and Matee Ajavon drew a shooting foul off a reverse layup. With their free throw cannon flipped on, the Dream gathered their footing, but Delle Donne began to step up.
The Skyscraper sank two buckets in a row to maintain the Sky’s lead. However, Elizabeth Williams cranked up her engine right on Delle Donne’s heels. The powerhouse dished in two shots and an and-1 to bring Atlanta within reach of Chicago, only one point behind once again.
Slamming a shot in right off a rebound, Williams reigned as queen of the quarter and brought the Dream to tie with the Sky at 37 even. Back and forth the scoreboard went, until the half closed at a tie game of 44 to 44.
The floor quaked in chaos throughout quarter as Atlanta viciously released their firepower. Bria Holmes and Williams tag teamed as leaders of the floor for the Dream, attacking the court with unmatched hustle, their score skyrocketing ahead of Chicago.
Unleashing their best tricks, the Dream relentlessly charged the hoop to gain fouls and free throws off of Chicago.
However, Delle Donne wouldn’t let Atlanta take the lead too easily — pulling out the big guns; the star player racked up an and-1, a free throw, and a three-pointer. In the last minute, Pondexter regained the crown and made two shots to bring the Sky up, 62 to 75 — victory was within their grasp.
A frantic Atlanta kicked off the quarter with audacious drive — McCoughtry continued to power the ball into the inside to draw fouls.
“We felt we had the game,” she said. “And they just got rebound after rebound after rebound. That’s how they wound up getting the lead, and we could never recover from that lead.”
Her free throws were not enough to redeem the Dream, for Pondexter and Delle Donne were ready to pounce. Pondexter sunk a three amid a sea of flustered Atlanta defenders and Delle Donne, hyped up, practically dunked, to bring the Sky up even further, now 80 to 72.
Williams, McCoughtry and Holmes fought and came within reach of Chicago, riding on their shirttails at 80 to 81 with three and a half minutes remaining. However, Delle Donne greased up her cannon and went in for the kill.
An Olympian with everlasting energy, she sank two free throws off a foul, grabbed a rebound to score right after, and drew another foul out of Williams to then make two more free throws.
In the final minute, Vandersloot snuck her way inside to bring the Sky up to 10 points ahead at 90 to 80. Atlanta retaliated with one more basket, but it was no use — with only 12 seconds remaining all Chicago fans rose to their feet to rejoice.
“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight.
“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”
And just like that, Atlanta’s two-game sovereignty over the Sky came to a halt, and Chicago walked off their turf with the win.