Attending Chicago Sky games in 2012 is much like a a day at Six Flags Great America. It's been a rollercoaster ride since the season began in May, from an intense, head-over-heels rolling adventure we'll call the "King Chaos" to a terrifying thriller we'll call the "Giant Drop," an eight-game, high-speed free fall that plummeted the Sky from first place to fourth in the Eastern Conference after a 7-3 start, their best ever.
The eight-game free fall was precipitated by the broken foot of guard Ephiphanny Prince. Back after the Olympic break, she's soaring like the "Vertical Velocity," a suspended spiraling impulse who shoots rapid-fire layups in less than four seconds. Tuesday, she was good for a game-high 26 points.
I'm getting dizzy. Where's the Dramamine?
On Tuesday night, at the Allstate Arena, the Sky were down 1/2 games for the fourth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The announced crowd of over 4,200 went wild as the Sky pulled off a timely upset over the World Champion Minnesota Lynx, 83-70. The win was huge for the Sky, and devastating to the Lynx(24-5), who were on a 10 game winning streak prior to coming into Chicago.
To be fair, both teams were lacking at key positions. Sky Center Sylvia Fowles did not dress due to a strained calf. The Lynx' veteran forward Seimone Augustus did not dress due to a sprained right foot.
But the Sky clearly benefited from the absence of the veteran Augustus, despite the presence of Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, and Lindsay Whalen, who put up sizable offensive/defensive unit. Moore led the Lynx with 18 points. Rebecca Brunson added 17.
The Sky led for most of the game behind a spirited defensive effort that held the Lynx, the WNBA's top-scoring team to 17 points below their season scoring average and only seven second quarter points, their low for a quarter all season.
Guard Courtney Vandersloot recorded 17 points and four assists giving Olympian point guard Lindsey Whalen fits all night. Carolyn Swords, filling in at center for Fowles, added 11 points and nine rebounds on 5-5 shooting.
Sky coach Pokey Chatman was delighted with the Sky's all-out effort. "That’s a team that averages 82, 83 points per game, and to hold them to 70 is something we strive to do.”
The most damning statistics for the Lynx was in second chance points, Chicago outscoring Minnesota 17-0. It was the first time in team history the Sky held a team to no second chance points.
The Sky also held the Liberty 17 points below their season scoring average. Lynx scored were a season low for a quarter for the team.
“We got it done defensively," said a delighted Coach Pokey Chatman. "I thought Courtney Vandersloot was active defensively, Swin Cash had some blocks.
"We need to play that way to have success," she continued. "Our transition game was positive, so (was our efforts) on the boards and at the free throw line, and we did a good job taking care of the basketball."
When asked what went wrong, Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve responded, “Everything.”
Sky center Carolyn Sword, substituting for Fowles, remarked, “It’s a great confidence booster and it’s great momentum heading out to the West Coast. I think we know if we can stick together and execute, we’ll be in good shape moving forward.
I think the best thing is that it’s a solid team win against a really good team. And being late in the season, it’s definitely a confidence booster.absolutely a must-win."
After the win, the Sky again tied the New York Liberty for fourth place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. Each team has five games remaining.
The Sky (12-17) travel to Los Angeles, to face the Sparks on Thursday. The Sky overpowered the Sparks at Allstate Arena on September 2. Leave it to the Sky's leading scorer to sum up the trip.
“It’s going to be tough but we’ll take it one game at a time," said Prince. "We start with L.A. and we know what they’re capable of, especially on their home court. We’ve got to stay focused.”