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2021 WNBA Playoffs: Chicago wins comfortably in Candace Parker’s playoff debut with Sky

Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper and Allie Quigley played their roles to perfection on Thursday night as the Chicago Sky defeated the Dallas Wings in the first round.

2021 WNBA Playoffs - Dallas Wings v Chicago Sky
Both Arike Ogunbowale (left) and Kahleah Copper (right) were electric on Thursday night. Copper came out one point ahead and her Sky got the win.
Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Sky saw a 21-point lead dwindle to three, but finished strong for an 81-64 first-round win over the up-and-coming Dallas Wings on Thursday night at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

In her first playoff game with the Sky, Candace Parker notched 11 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Courtney Vandersloot added 17 points, eight boards and six helpers and went on a 9-2 individual run against the Wings from 4:06 remaining in the fourth to 34 seconds remaining in the fourth that increased Chicago’s lead from eight to 15. It was part of a 13-2 run for the Sky as a team.

Kahleah Copper led Chicago in scoring with 23 points and was 10-of-14 from the field. Parker and Vandersloot stuffed the stat sheet, but Copper was the most exciting player to watch and the 23 marked a playoff career high. Allie Quigley had 15 points, three assists and three made threes.

Arike Ogunbowale poured in 22 points in defeat and was 5-of-10 from downtown. Isabelle Harrison added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Wings.

The Sky started the game off with a 37-16 lead, but Dallas responded with a 9-0 run that featured seven-straight points from Ogunbowale, a dangerous scorer with the capability of ripping teams’ hearts out. The Wings would hang around until Allisha Gray cut it to three with a layup 43 seconds into the fourth. However, Marina Mabrey missed a three to tie 42 seconds later and Dallas never got any closer.

Back-to-back layups from Copper and Parker pushed Chicago’s lead to seven and, although Ogunbowale later made threes to cut it to four and six, the Wings superstar did not have the firepower to catch the Sky.

“I saw that nobody got panicked,” said Sky head coach James Wade. “You saw us come together even more, you saw more huddles on the floor. Made some errors, but we were able to get out of those errors.”

There were plenty of beautiful assists in the game for Chicago, highlighted by Vandersloot’s no-look pass to a cutting Copper, who then double-clutched on a layup that made it 51-41 at the 5:13 mark of the third.

Chicago won points in the paint 48-22 and second chance points 13-2. It also outrebounded Dallas 47-35.

“Their starting five had 15 rebounds and Candace had 15 rebounds as well,” Wade said. “When those things happen it helps you out. This was a Candace Parker-type game. Playoff game. She has all the records when it comes to playoffs. So we felt going in that she was going to have a big game. And we think the best is yet to come.”

The Sky, who had a better winning percentage last year yet fell in the first round, advance to face the Minnesota Lynx in the second round at 5 p.m. on Sunday (ESPN2). If they defeat the Lynx, they are guaranteed to play the No. 1 seed Connecticut Sun in the semifinals because they are the lowest remaining seed.

“The playoffs start when the road team wins a game,” Parker said. “Literally the playoffs will start for us or end for us (at Minnesota). So I think that’s our mentality. We’ve toed the water so much this year with greatness and we haven’t really quite got over it. And I think we’re a team that does things when we have to. So hopefully we realize we have to.”