The Chicago Sky were clubbed by the Las Vegas Aces in the Commissioner’s Cup Final on Tuesday evening. This is the second year of the WNBA’s in-season competition, which consists of 61 games culminating in the two teams with the highest winning percentage in each conference competing for a prize pool of half a million dollars. The Sky and Aces finished with identical Cup records, at 9-1 a piece.
This was an unusual game where turnovers appeared to be the problem via the eye test. However, the Aces finished with 15 turnovers compared to the Sky’s 13. That telltale 33 point first quarter for the Aces gave them an insurmountable lead throughout the contest. Kelsey Plum scored the first basket of the game – a wide open three. Plum repeated that play not once, not twice, but thrice, for nine points within the first two minutes of the game.
This was an overall terrible shooting game for Chicago. They eventually finished at 40%, but they shot 14% from the field by the end of the first quarter.
By halftime, three Sky players had 30 of the team’s 34 points: Emma Meesseman, Candace Parker, and Kahleah Copper all put up 10 points each heading into the second half. At one point, the Sky were down 21 points. The Sky made a few key runs in the second half and eventually managed to trim the lead down to seven points. However, the effort was still not enough to overcome the Aces’ strong start.
“They came out and threw the first punch,” Parker told reporters in a post-game conference.
The Aces defense, including A’ja Wilson’s six blocks, proved successful at keeping the Sky away from the rim. Aces defenders also forced the Sky into some awkward threes. The Sky missed their first 13 attempts from three, with Parker finally breaking the three-point cold spell in the second half.
Aces head coach Becky Hammon acknowledged the Sky finally breaking into the paint later on in the game, but not enough to assuage the damage from the first quarter.
“They got into the paint in the second half. Some of it they missed, some of it was our defense. You need multiple efforts to stop this team,” Coach Hammon said.
Rebekah Gardner made some key plays at the rim in the second half, and finished with nine points and five rebounds.
“It gave us a level of toughness that we needed. Probably should have gotten her in there earlier,” Coach Wade said on Gardner’s game. “I probably put her in there a little too late.”
Even with some decent looks, poor shooting sealed the Sky’s fate early. This was Courtney Vandersloot’s first game returning from what was a four-game absence due to concussion protocols. Sloot shot 4-for-10 from the field, and missed all three point attempts made. She entered this game with the Sky’s highest shooting percentage versus the Aces, at 57.7%.
Coach Wade emphasized that Sloot was ready to play, and had no issues returning from her absence. The veteran point guard took a hard fall in a win versus the Los Angeles Sparks on July 14.
“I knew if we put her in a uniform, she would be ready to play,” Wade said of Vandersloot.
As a bounty for winning the Cup, each Las Vegas Aces player earned $30,000, while each Sky player received $10,000. Chelsea Gray controlled all aspects of the floor. Gray was named game MVP; she earned a bonus of $5,000. In the spirit of the league’s social justice and civic engagement initiative, each WNBA team chose a charitable or civic organization to benefit from the series. The Aces raised money for the ACLU of Nevada, while the Sky chose My Block, My Hood, My City.
The Sky look to bounce back on Friday, July 29, where the New York Liberty return to Wintrust Arena for their final 2022 regular season game in Chicago. Game tipoff is at 7PM CT, and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and CW 26.