Courtney Vandersloot didn’t end up in the spot Kahleah Copper expected her to 37 seconds into double overtime on Tuesday night and a bad pass from Copper sailed out of bounds.
Vandersloot and Copper’s Chicago Sky were down 93-91 to the Connecticut Sun and had just given the ball back to the No. 1 seed, giving them a chance to make it a two-possession game.
Vandersloot gave off a knee-jerk reaction of frustration, but quickly caught herself and went over to Copper to let her know it was all good.
Copper would score on a transition layup that tied the game 23 seconds later and the Sky would never trail again en route to a 101-95 Semifinals Game 1 win at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Vandersloot’s veteran leadership shone through in tough spot and her team-first mentality was obvious as she tied her own WNBA record with 18 assists in a single game and recorded the second-ever playoff triple-double in league history by adding 12 points and 10 rebounds. It all contributed to sixth-seeded Chicago’s third-straight playoff win, which has put them in a good position against the team to beat.
Courtney Vandersloot with just the 2nd triple-double in the WNBA Playoffs:— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) September 29, 2021
Sheryl Swoopes had the first with 14 PTS/10 REB/10 AST in the 2005 Playoffs.
18 assists is also a WNBA Playoffs record and ties Sloot's own single-game regular season record.
Vandersloot called Sheryl Swoopes, the other player with a playoff triple-double, “elite.”
“And to be with that company, that’s obviously special,” she added. “And to do it in the playoffs. I needed 50 minuted to do it though, she probably didn’t.”
“I think Sloot’s humble, but it’s remarkable,” said Candace Parker, who may not have made her homecoming to Chicago if Vandersloot hadn’t already been there giving the team a shot at a title. “For her to do what she did, play the minutes that she did, defend, rebound, come down and facilitate under pressure. I think sometimes we get spoiled because we see it all the time, we see the plays she makes. It really has been fun for me just to watch the way that she thinks the game, the way that she’s always three plays ahead of what the defense is gonna do.”
“(It will) go down as one of the greatest point guard games in playoff history,” said Sky head coach James Wade. “I’m not surprised because this is what she does.”
Vandersloot was genuinely surprised when ESPN reporter Holly Rowe told her in a postgame interview that she had a triple-double.
The moment I tell @Sloot22 she had a triple double. Just the second one in @wnba playoff history. Classic. pic.twitter.com/zELo3LWIu0— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) September 29, 2021
Vandersloot’s rebound tally, which only turned to double digits with 7.9 seconds remaining, was probably the last thing on her mind as the thrilling fourth quarter and overtime periods unfolded.
Vandersloot’s 17th and 18th assists of the night really were pretty epic. No. 17 was a lob over DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones to who else but Parker for a layup that gave the Sky a two-point lead. No. 18 was a pick and roll assist to Stefanie Dolson that pushed the lead to four.
B. Jones (22 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, two blocks) had one last say in the contest: a short baseline make off a broken play that cut it to three with 13.7 seconds to go. But Connecticut would not score again and three free throws from the Sky put the home team in a six-point hole with 7.9 ticks left.
The first overtime ended with the Sky turning the ball over when they had a chance to hold for a final shot and Connecticut running out of time on the other end. Before that, Briann January, a career 84.6 percent free throw shooter in 13 seasons, made one of two free throws to tie the game instead of giving the Sun a one-point lead with 25.1 seconds remaining in the frame.
At the end of regulation it was a missed free throw by Copper that allowed the score to remain tied. She made two of three with 19.3 seconds remaining before contesting a Bonner mid-range shot that missed at the buzzer and would have won the game for Connecticut. B. Jones made a layup off an offensive rebound with 24.7 seconds to go that gave the Sun a two-point lead.
Chicago led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, but nobody had a double-digit lead in any quarter after that.
On the day she was named league MVP, Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones was phenomenal with 26 points, 11 boards, four assists and two blocks. But it wasn’t enough as Parker countered with 22 points, six helpers and two steals. Allie Quigley and Copper added 19 and 13 points, respectively, while Astou Ndour-Fall (nine points, six rebounds), Azurá Stevens (eight points, seven rebounds), Dolson (nine points, five rebounds) and Diamond DeShields (nine points) were all key as well. Dolson was 4-of-4 from the field.
Bonner notched 13 points, 10 boards and two blocks in defeat.
Chicago dominated the field goal percentage battle 49.4 percent to 37.8 percent, but turned the ball over 20 times compared to the Sun’s 12. Connecticut could have won with a better free throw shooting effort. It was 22-of-31 from the stripe.