It’s Game Day! The Chicago Sky take on the Washington Mystics at Wintrust Arena tonight, for the second meeting of the year between the clubs. Also, it’s been a minute — let’s give you a run down of what the Sky have been up to this week.
Heart and Sole
The Chicago Sky hosted a shoe drive on Monday, in support of Brittney Griner’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. Shoes donated at the game were to benefit the Sports Shed, a nonprofit serving schools and other non-profits in under-resourced areas with athletic programs, mainly in Chicago. There was also an autographed shoe auction to support Phoenix Rescue Mission, a nonprofit in Arizona.
According to the Sky, over 400 pairs of shoes were donated to the cause.
“It was a lot. I gave 11 pairs,” Coach Wade said on the shoe drive effort. “We took it very seriously to help support her. We’re doing what we can to bring awareness and put pressure on who we need to put pressure on to bring her home.”
Griner has now been wrongfully detained in Russia for over 100 days. Coach Wade commented on the situation after Tuesday’s win over Phoenix, specifically how it didn’t feel like a true Finals rematch.
“It’s tough. If you know her personally, it’s tougher. She’s such a sweet and lovable person. And she cares for people. It’s not the same. I didn’t think of it as a Finals rematch. BG’s not here, Diamond is on the other team, Diana is in the locker room. So you don’t feel the same.”
Courtney Vandersloot also emphasized the impact of Griner’s absence.
“It didn’t feel right out there without her,” Vandersloot said. “She’s a huge focal point, an All-Star and an Olympian in this league. We need people that make decisions to bring her home. It’s been 100 days … people need to step up and bring her home.”
The Phoenix Mercury sans Griner, and eventually Diana Taurasi (we’ll get to that in a second) were missing a strong front-court presence on Tuesday. The Mercury’s offense was subsidized greatly by Tina Charles, with a team-leading 25 points. Skylar Diggins-Smith, and our old friend Diamond DeShields also put up points in double figures.
Taurasi was shortly ejected with 3:43 left in the second quarter after arguing with referees on a no-call. The Mercury retaliated after Taurasi’s ejection by scoring 31 points in the third quarter and shooting 72 percent from the floor, effectively turning the tables.
Despite Phoenix’s hearty rally, the Sky were able to overcome the Mercury led by Vandersloot, who erupted with 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“Today it was attacking switches,” Vandersloot told reporters on Tuesday night. “It’s not like that every game. It’s adjusting last minute, and the ball was in my hands a lot. Just making plays down the stretch.”
Vandersloot made one of two free throw attempts with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 72-70 lead.
“It’s about making the plays that we practice and talk about,” she said. “We know that the ball is going to be in my or Candace’s hands, it’s some kind of pick and roll. Mitigate the offense and attack it.”
Candace Parker shot 2-for-9 from the field, scoring five points, a departure from the triple-double performance she put up on May 22 against the Mystics.
“It was an off day,” Wade said of Parker. “She still led us in rebounds (11) and made some winning plays.”
Rebekah Gardner also scored 10 points off the bench.
“I’m always trying to do something,” Gardner told reporters after the game. “The fans already give you a lot of energy. The atmosphere is great, and I was trying to keep my focus and close the game.”
The Sky followed Tuesday’s win with a 73-65 road win over the Atlanta Dream at the Gateway Center in a Commissioner’s Cup game.
In what was probably an interesting postgame conversation, Vandersloot passed teammate and wife Allie Quigley to become the Chicago Sky’s franchise leader in scoring. They both entered Friday’s game tied with 3,389 points each.
The Sky held a commanding lead for most of the contest, at one point holding a 20-point lead. The switch flipped, however, in the third quarter at the hands of Erica Wheeler. She made a jump shot to pull the Dream ahead for the first time in the game. The Sky managed to prevail due to Gardner’s four points in the fourth quarter, along with Parker and Kahleah Copper going to the line. Copper scored a season-high 21 points in the contest.
Defense has been a cornerstone of the Sky’s gameplay, as they held the Phoenix Mercury to shooting 40 percent from the field in Tuesday’s game.
On Friday, the Sky held the Dream to shooting just 34.7 percent from the field.
“We’re still trying to find our defensive identity,” Wade said on Tuesday night. “We held this team to 40 percent. We’re better when we don’t send teams to the free-throw line.” Atlanta made 8 out of 10 free throw attempts, while the Sky made 16 of 20.
The Sky have now won their last two games with 73 points scored, respectively.
“Defense won us this game,” Vandersloot said after beating Phoenix. “You’re not going to win many games with 73 points.”
Yet Another Revenge Game
Remember the other CP – The Sky drafted Cheyenne Parker with the fifth pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft. She finally played her first game against the Chicago Sky on Friday, after six seasons with the Sky from 2015-20. Parker put up 19 points and was the Dream’s top scorer and shot 8 for 12 from the field. She also led the Dream with six rebounds, and also contributed two steals, and an assist.
A not-so-long anticipated rematch
The Sky end the week with a Sunday night home date against Washington. The Sky faced the Mystics recently on May 22 and won 82-73. The game included a spectacular performance from Candace Parker in which she earned a triple-double.
The Mystics enter the game after suffering a 74-70 loss to the New York Liberty on Friday.
This game is the return of the double revenge game. Former Sky star Elena Delle Donne is currently Washington’s team leader in points per game (17.5) and field goal percentage (49.1%). Meanwhile, Emma Meesseman played seven seasons for the Mystics before she was acquired by the Sky in the 2021 offseason.
Tipoff at Wintrust Arena will be at 5 p.m. CT, and will be aired on Amazon Prime, Marquee Sports Network and Monumental Sports Network.