Chicago Sky advances, earns trip to Vegas for Round 2
The Chicago Sky is going to Vegas, baby.
With an effort as flashy and as electric as a Las Vegas marquee Wednesday night, the Sky punched its ticket to the second round of the WNBA playoffs, and a date with the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday.
Now the Sky is hoping that what happened in Chicago in its 105-76 dominating first-round victory over the Phoenix Mercury doesn't just stay in Chicago but instead follows along for the ride to Las Vegas.
"We started out the season with that hunger, that playoff hunger, and we've put all that talk into being a playoff team, and now that we're here, we have to go out and prove it," Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot said. "It's not enough just to be here."
The Sky, which ballooned a 3-point halftime lead into as many as 29 points in the second half, made quite a statement and couldn't have played much better, shooting 53 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range, rolling up 30 assists on 41 made field goals and outscoring the Mercury in the paint, 50-20.
Five players scored in double figures for the Sky, while Vandersloot, the leading playmaker in the league at 9 assists per game, finished with 9 points and 11 assists.
Basketball seemed to be working in the Sky's favor, but maybe an intangible, too, a desire to make some noise in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, when reaching the semifinals.
"I definitely think there is something driving us in the pits of our stomachs," said Sky forward Diamond DeShields, who scored a game-high 25 points. "We've all won at some point (in college, high school) and as a natural competitor, you want to feel that again. We know we have a special team."
The Sky, which is making its fifth trip to the playoffs in its 14-year history, certainly has a special coach. Head coach James Wade was presented with the WNBA Coach of the Year trophy before tipoff.
In his first year as a WNBA head coach, he took a Sky team that had missed the playoffs the last two years to a fifth-place finish in the league and 20 wins.
"This feels good. This was a good game for us," Wade said. "The (assistant) coaches got on me for not kind of enjoying it because I'm thinking about the next game, so I feel good to win it, but now I just want to think about (Las Vegas)."
The Sky went 1-3 this season against Las Vegas, which has one of the best frontcourts in the WNBA in 6-foot-8 center Liz Cambage and 6-foot-4 forward A'ja Wilson.
Sky bigs Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndour should present a challenge. They each scored 16 points against Phoenix, while guard Allie Quigley added 15 points. Forward Cheyenne Parker scored 11 points off the bench.
DeWanna Bonner topped Phoenix, which went 0-4 against the Sky this season and shot just 36 percent from the field in this game, with 21 points.
The Mercury played most of the game without all-star center Brittney Griner, who went down just before halftime with an injury to her kneecap. She started the second half but played only a few minutes because she was struggling to run and jump. Griner scored just 6 points in 13 minutes.
Phoenix also was without legendary guard Dianna Taurasi, who missed most of the season recovering from back surgery.