Phoenix, AZ -- The Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury faced each other for the third time this season at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix on Tuesday night. The teams have a history of close encounters on the court, and this matchup was no different.
Chicago was without centers Erika de Souza and Clarissa Dos Santos, who left to represent Brazil in the Summer Olympics.
Propelled by Elena Delle Donne and Jamierra Faulkner, the Chicago Sky broke a 1-5 losing record on the road to trump the Mercury 79-77 with a game-winning last second shot by Jessica Breland.
"Luckily we pulled it out at the end, but we have to stop letting teams have runs on us," Delle Donne said.
With wounds still fresh from a five-point loss to Chicago on July 11, the Mercury showed up hungry for a "W," but couldn't get the job done soon enough.
Tight defense on both ends rendered the game scoreless for the first minute and a half, until Candice Dupree broke the silence for the Mercury with a smooth lay-in. Not much else went Phoenix's way in the first quarter; a smothering Chicago defense forced eight turnovers and held the Mercury to just 10 points, a season low for the team in first quarter scoring.
Cappie Pondexter was a spark early on for Chicago, snatching the ball twice on defense and racking up nine points in the first quarter alone, to leave Phoenix trailing by 12 points entering the second quarter.
The "Texas Towers" Imani Boyette and Brittney Griner, made minimal contributions for each team in the first half, with neither player breaking double-digits. Faulkner brought Chicago's lead to 42-30 with a gravity-defying 19-foot buzzer-beater to end the first half.
Things got heated, literally, 30 seconds into the second half, when a skirmish broke out between Griner and Pondexter which resulted in flagrant foul calls and ejections for both players. Griner exited the game with just four points and three rebounds, quite a downgrade for the Mercury's third-best double-digit scorer.
Pondexter's absence seemed to cripple Chicago's defense, which allowed the Mercury to creep back from a 13-point deficit led by Taurasi, who raised the roof with a three-pointer in the corner, igniting a fiery 11-point run for Phoenix that propelled the Mercury to a 47-46 lead. A third quarter rally favored Phoenix at 56-55 going into the fourth.
"We maintained excellent body language and composure, even in those panic moments," said Chicago Coach Pokey Chapman. "When you go from up 14 to down nine, you've gotta dig deep to make stops and come back, and that's what we did."
The crowd was on its feet for most of the fourth quarter as the Mercury battled to defend its territory. DeWanna Bonner fought hard to keep her team afloat, putting up 20 points and eight rebounds overall.
Bonner dazzled beyond the arc, nailing back-to-back three-pointers over Delle Donne in the fourth quarter, to pull Phoenix up 62-53 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game.
After scoring 11 points in the first half, Elena Delle Donne put up just two points for Chicago in the third quarter, but shined down the line, emerging from a scoring drought with a pull-up jump shot to give the lead back to Chicago 74-72 with 1:38 left to play.
With Phoenix down by two points, Dupree stepped up to the plate with 12.8 seconds left, sinking a floater off the dribble to tie the game at 77-77. But it wasn't enough. With two-tenths of a second left, Breland clinched a 79-77 victory for Chicago with a clutch put-back.
"The opportunity was there, and I took it," said Breland.
And just like that, the lights went out in Phoenix.
Behind Bonner, Dupree was the Mercury's second highest scorer with 18 points and eight rebounds. Donne led the Sky with 18 points, followed by Faulkner, who totaled 14 points.
"We regrouped and we fought back, but it wasn't enough," Mercury Coach Sandy Brondello said after the game. "Looking forward, we need to be inspired and really find consistency on offense."