The Chicago Sky are headed to the WNBA Finals in Candace Parker’s debut season in her hometown thanks to a 79-69 Game 4 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday night at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Parker was good for 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks as she fittingly led the way. Kahleah Copper added 18 points and six boards, Courtney Vandersloot (5-of-6 from deep) had 19 points and four helpers and Azurá Stevens (3-of-4 from deep) notched 11 points and seven rebounds.
An 11-0 Sky run from 9:15 in the third to 5:08 in the third gave Chicago an 18-point lead and it led by at least nine the rest of the way. Vandersloot took the run to 8-0 with a wide-open three that really got the home crowd going and forced a Sun timeout. The first basket out of the timeout was a Parker three that went down despite a fairly good contest from Jonquel Jones, who posted 25 points, 11 boards, two steals and two blocks in defeat.
Parker put the exclamation mark on the victory with a lefty layup from a tough angle that made the score 77-62 Sky with 3:03 to play in the fourth. After that, Twitter lit up with many saying that Parker had just sealed the deal.
Chicago went 16-16 in the regular season, but was without Parker for nine games. It is the lowest-seeded team to ever make the WNBA Finals.
The Chicago Sky are in the WNBA Finals, and they've already accomplished something no other team has done under the new format pic.twitter.com/SJXEdKw0CX— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 7, 2021
“I had belief from the beginning, no matter how much the losses racked up,” said Sky head coach James Wade. “Sometimes I did come to question, when we were on our seven-game losing streak, am I enough for (my players)? They told me that I was. ... I just wanted to make sure I was always setting them up for success.”
“We have a bunch of people that get up,” Parker said. “Like you get knocked down and you get up.”
This is the Sky’s third-straight season making the playoffs and they had winning regular-season records in 2019 and 2020. But they have been taken to a new level by Parker in the 2021 playoffs.
“I don't know if in our locker room when we finished the season 16-16 if Candace is not in that locker room if they believe the way they believe,” Wade said.
The Las Vegas Aces defeated the Phoenix Mercury later Wednesday night, extending the other semifinal series to a fifth game. Game 1 of the Finals will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ABC).
“The Finals are hard,” Parker said. “I’m 1-1 in the Finals. I was telling Kah today like Game 4s at home, close out, elimination, haven’t been good to me in the Finals, I’ll tell you that. It’s hard. Obviously we’re going to enjoy this tonight. We don’t know who we’re playing. But I think our big focus this postseason has been about us. Has been about us, our defense, our rebounding, our ability to move and share the ball. I think if we do that, it will still be hard, but, I like our chances.”
The Sky have never won a WNBA championship. They were swept by the Mercury in the 2014 Finals.
The Sun gave themselves more long-distance shooting by starting Natisha Hiedeman in place of Kaila Charles at the beginning of the third and were rewarded with a three from Hiedeman, which was followed by a three from J. Jones that quickly cut the team’s deficit to seven. But then the 11-0 Chicago run happened.
Vandersloot picked up her third foul with 5:30 to go in the second and came out of the game with 2:44 left before the break. Copper responded to Vandersloot’s absence by going to the basket, getting fouled and making one of two free throws. Parker then created for herself and scored on a lay in and Copper followed with an inside bucket for a 5-0 Sky run to end the half with Vandersloot on the bench. It’s always nerve-wracking for Sky fans when Vandersloot goes out, but Copper and Parker stepped up there.
The Sun were making a move on the Sky when Alyssa Thomas was called for a technical foul after Diamond DeShields fouled her with 6:35 to go in the second. Allie Quigley made the technical free throw and Chicago proceeded to stop Connecticut on the possession, which was followed by a Copper layup, a Stevens three and another Copper score. The sequence put the Sky up 46-35.
Before the T on A. Thomas, Jasmine Thomas stole the ball from Vandersloot near half court and drove all the way down the floor on Vandersloot for a 3-point play that cut the Sun’s deficit to three.
The Sky came out of the first up six. It was a period that nearly got away from the Sun, but they also had an 8-0 run that cut it to three, so it could have been closer as well.
Vandersloot scored 13 points in the opening frame on 3-of-3 shooting from distance. J. Jones had nine points in the first, including five on the 8-0 run.
Vandersloot made two threes in the first two minutes and Parker added a trey at the 7:14 mark of the first to make it 13-2 Sky.
A. Thomas finished with seven points, eight rebounds and four helpers, J. Thomas had 11 points, three assists, two steals and two blocks and Hiedeman had 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from downtown. Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner were held to a combined 10 points.