September 29, 2021
The (Mohegan) Sun shines brightly on the Chicago Sky in a historic playoff win
If the game seesawed on Tuesday, expect Thursday night to be a defensive juggernaut by the Sun, which the Sky will have to answer
It was a game for the ages at Mohegan Sun Arena between the Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun. All that was missing was a buzzer-beating shot and an altercation between the game captains.
Playing in their first postseason series since 2016, the No. 6 seeded Chicago Sky opened up on the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Sun like a demon unleashed, aggressively taking the Sun to two overtimes and taking the first game of the five-game series spectacularly, 101-95.
In winning the game, the Sky faced down Jonquel Jones, the league’s newly crowned MVP, who led scorers overall with 26 points. They also halted the Sun’s franchise-record setting, 14-game winning streak. Before Tuesday night, they hadn’t lost a game since Aug. 12.
The Sun’s DeWanna Bonner put the loss succinctly:
“We missed shots, we missed assignments, we missed free throws, we missed layups, we missed rebounds, (and) some things uncharacteristic of us,” Bonner said.
Four Sky players finished with at least 10 points. Leading the way was forward Candace Parker, who finished with 22 points on 53.3% shooting from the field. Allie Quigley scored 19, hitting three of seven 3-pointers, and Kahleah Copper added 13 points. Azurá Stevens scored eight while Stefanie Dolson, Astou Ndour-Fall and Diamond DeShields all scored nine off the bench.
But it was Courtney Vandersloot, acting very much the general she is on the court, who delivered the most historic of performances.
After promising that she would be aggressive in the postseason, she more than made good on that promise. ‘Slootie’s’ 12 point, 18 assists, 10 rebound night made her the only player since WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes to reach a triple-double in playoff history. Vandersloot is also only the 10th player in the WNBA’s 25-year history to complete a triple-double. She also set a Sky playoff record for most assists in a quarter, with seven in the second quarter. This topped her own mark of six assists vs. Atlanta nearly five years ago to the day, on Sept. 25, 2016.
“Oh my God, I had no idea I had a triple-double!” Vandersloot exclaimed to ESPN sportscaster Holly Rowe in a postgame interview.
James Wade, Sky Head Coach and General Manager, was effusive about the decade-long Sky veteran. “She’s amazing,” he said. “Look at the stat sheet and the way she controlled the game. She was able to control the game from the beginning to the end. She had a special game. One of the best point guard games in playoff history. I’m not surprised because this is what she does.”
Connecticut coach Curt Miller, who received WNBA Coach of the Year honors recently, said of Vandersloot. “She (Vandersloot) orchestrates everything out there,” he said. “She’s so good with the basketball. Huge game for her.”
“I think Sloot’s humble,” Parker said in postgame. “But it’s remarkable to do what she did. Defend, rebound, come down and facilitate under pressure. I think sometimes we get spoiled because we see it all the time, the plays she makes. It really has been fun for me just to watch the way she thinks the game and the way she’s always two plays ahead.”
Looking Ahead-Game 2, Thursday, 7 pm CDT
“Fool Me Once, Shame On You’. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me! “
The Court and Character of King James by Anthony Weldon, 1651
The Sun will not want their most humiliating game of the season to stand as the most memorable game at Mohegan Sun Arena this year. Expect the Sun to come up with new ways to defend and contain Sloot and Parker, the two most dangerous Sky players in the paint. The Sun are the No. 1 seed for a reason, and part of that is their resilience on their own court.
Miller said as much. “We have to look at different ways to disrupt her. That’s Slooty. That’s what we think about her each and every night, she has the ability to just orchestrate everything.”
If the game seesawed on Tuesday, expect Thursday night to be a defensive juggernaut by the Sun, which the Sky will have to answer. Wade will have his hands full trying to anticipate how the Sun will attempt to contain their explosive energy.
However, the Sky’s sheer determination and belief in themselves have propelled them this far. And they are all healthy, according to their latest report.
As l said, l believe the Sky may take this in five, so Thursday’s game is a bigger toss-up than Tuesday’s game. The Sun takes this one, to avoid another home court humiliation, 85-75. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. CT (8:00 p.m. ET) from Mohegan Sun Arena.