On Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, the Chicago Sky defeated a Las Vegas Aces team that was without Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby, but it was still impressive and clinched the playoffs for the team in its first season with hometown hero Candace Parker.
Parker followed up her 30-point, 14-rebound performance in a 90-83 loss to the Aces with 12 points, 13 boards and eight assists and the Sky won 92-84.
Chicago led by eight after one and at the break, but by just three entering the fourth. A deep two from Riquna Williams cut it to three again with 2:18 to go, but the Sky then closed the game on a 5-0 run. Kahleah Copper (14 points) made three free throws and Astou Ndour-Fall (six points, seven rebounds, two blocks) made two.
Allie Quigley (four assists) led the Sky with 22 points on 4-of-5 shooting from downtown, while Diamond DeShields chipped in with 17. Courtney Vandersloot added nine points to go along with her six assists.
A’ja Wilson notched 18 points, 12 rebounds and three steals in defeat while Kelsey Plum (three assists) led Vegas (20-8) with 23 points.
The Sky had championship aspirations to start the season and were relieved to clinch the playoffs after an up-and-down season that has them at 15-14 and in sixth place.
“It means a lot,” Parker said of making the playoffs in her first season in Chicago. She grew up in nearby Naperville. “I think this season has been difficult. Just with injuries and the ins and the outs of the season. And so you never take for granted in the league that we play in to clinch playoffs. Obviously we have our work cut out for us, but for today we’ll celebrate that.
You play the hand you’re dealt. I know that from my entire career. Have things always been fair? No. But guess what, it’s what it is. The sun comes out the next day, you gotta keep going. Obviously we had expectations of not clinching now, maybe clinching ahead of time and maybe being in a different spot. But it is what it is. I think we have a resilient team. And you know, we’ve learned from it. And going into postseason I think we’re in a position to be able to get momentum and to be playing well. Because if we were playing like this in a lot of the other home games that we lost, I don’t know if those would have been Ls.”
Atlanta Dream (7-20) over Dallas Wings (12-16), 69-64
The Dream snapped an 11-game skid and picked up their first win under interim head coach Darius Taylor, who took over for previous interim head coach Mike Petersen at the Olympic break. Nicki Collen was the team’s head coach entering the season but took the head coaching job at Baylor before it started.
This was a critical loss for the Wings against the lowly Dream when a win would have placed them 2.5 games ahead of the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty, who are tied for eighth.
Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale made a three to cut her team’s deficit to three with 28 seconds to play, but Atlanta went on a 4-0 run after that with four free throws, making Tyasha Harris’ mid-range make with 4.4 ticks remaining meaningless.
Tiffany Hayes, who missed the end of June, all of July and some of August with a knee injury, recorded her first 20-point game since June 9, scoring 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Monique Billings backed her up with 12 points and 14 boards and Courtney Williams was good for 17 points. Elizabeth Williams (10 points, three assists, four blocks) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Dream.
Ogunbowale finished with 21 points while Allisha Gray posted 10 points and 14 boards in defeat.
“It was a great all-around team effort,” Taylor said. “I thought we battled through adversity, we battled through this really physical, grind-out game. I though Tiffany bounced back, had a great game. We continued to do what we do defensively since the second half started and just made it really hard for them to get into their initial sets, denying them the ball and disrupting them. I’m just so happy for them, happy for the team that it finally paid off for us to get a win after working so hard.”