Candace Parker had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks in her debut with her hometown team, Kahleah Copper had 19 points and eight rebounds and the Chicago Sky (1-0) held the Washington Mystics (0-1) to 25 percent shooting from the field in a 70-56 season-opening win on Saturday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
The key difference came from beyond the arc as the Mystics were 4-of-30 while the Sky were 8-of-17.
“We talked about defensive mindset and so that’s how we were gauging our play,” said Chicago head coach James Wade. “Of course we wish offensively we can find a little bit more fluidity in what we do and actually execute a little bit better as far as getting out on the breaks and stuff like that. I think that’s gonna come with time. But the sense of urgency to the defensive side of the ball is probably something that we’re gonna keep on paying attention to and just try to build from that.”
Down 6-2 early, the Sky went on a 10-0 run that was capped by a Diamond DeShields backcourt steal and assist to Copper and featured three Mystics turnovers overall. Washington came back, but two Parker free throws with 5:13 to go in the second gave Chicago a double-digit lead that they would not relinquish. That capped a stretch of six-straight free throws for the Sky, who finished 18-of-21 from the stripe. Copper was 6-of-7.
Parker looked really good in this game, going 3-of-4 from deep and making a two-thirds of the court pass to Copper in a slightly different direction than her body was moving, which led to a layup.
“She gives us a lot,” Wade said of Parker. “With the three blocks defensively and offensively being able to playmake from a big’s point of view. So she should be the story.”
“It felt like normal,” Parker said. “I love the game of basketball. And especially when I was younger it didn’t matter where it was being played, where the ball was gonna be bounced. I feel at home on the court.
And then to actually be in your home jersey, feeling at home on a court, with players that you’ve grown up playing with. I mean Allie Quigley and I have played against each other since we were in high school. It was joy.”
Copper averaged by far a career-best 14.9 points last year with her fellow 6-foot-1 guard/wing in DeShields out for much of the season. Both Wade and Parker were excited about the way she played on Saturday.
“She’s capable of a lot,” Wade said. “I don't know if we’ve seen her ceiling. She’s still a young player in this league. She works hard, she’s a great teammate. We’re just gonna encourage her to keep on finding new heights for herself. ... I just appreciate seeing her getting her just due and everybody else seeing and recognizing what we have.”
“Well first, I hope we don’t lose her to the Olympics with the 400 or the 100 or 200 because she’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen,” Parker said. “And I’ve usually been on the other side trying to guard it. ... It’s been fun learning her in training camp and it’s definitely more fun for me to be on her team.”
Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who averaged a WNBA-record 10 assists last year, was held to just three points and a still-solid four helpers. DeShields dished out a game-high five assists.
Tina Charles led Washington with 14 points, but it was Natasha Cloud who had the team’s most complete stat line with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.