No WNBA Finals for the Chicago Sky, after all.
The Chicago Sky’s season ended Monday night with a 100-89 loss to their fierce Eastern Conference rival Indiana Fever in Game 3 at Allstate Arena, in front of a wildly cheering announced crowd of 2,882.
Elena Delle Donne put in an MVP effort, leading all scorers with a franchise-record 40 points, the third highest number of points scored in a WNBA playoff. Her previous playoff career-high was 34 points versus Atlanta on August 26, 2014.
She finished the 2015 WNBA Playoffs averaging 21.7 points per game.
As a team, the Sky shot 70.6% in the first quarter but the Fever stayed close with balanced scoring from their starting five.
Chicago native and former MVP Tamika Catchings scored her 1,000th playoff point with a jumper at the 9:21 mark of the second quarter, becoming the first player in WNBA history to score 1,000 points in the postseason. She finished with a team-high 27 points. It was her highest scoring output since another 27-point game in a Game 2 win in the 2012 WNBA Finals.
Catchings was aided by Shenise Johnson and Erlana Larkins, who both had playoff career highs for the Fever. Johnson scored 22 points, while Larkins scored 18 points. Her previous playoff career high was 16 points against Minnesota on October 14, 2012.
The score was tied at 28 entering the second quarter, until the Sky’s 6-2 run extended what would be their largest lead of the night.The Fever closed the half on a 10-5 run to take a 52-47 advantage at the break.
Chicago fought back in the second half but was unable to regain the lead. Courtney Vandersloot continued to find Delle Donne in open areas in the second half. She added 19 points in the half but the closest the Sky would get was within six points (93-87) on a Cappie Pondexter layup with one minute remaining in regulation.
Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky Head Coach and General Manager, assessed the loss.
“I thought from the very beginning we allowed Indiana to become very comfortable offensively, to the tune of knocking down comfortable shots, shooting a high percentage, and once you get to that point, you find the courage to take shots you don’t normally take,” she said. “They showed why they’re the number one three point shooting team in the league I think we shot 57 percent and they shot 58 percent but they did a better job of attacking us and making us commit those 18 fouls.”
Delle Donne blamed poor defense for the loss.
“Our defense is something that would be up and down and inconsistent throughout the whole season and tonight that showed.” she said in postgame. “You can’t allow a team to score 100 points, so that’s going to be the focus right from the start next season.”
Cappie Pondexter reminded a postgame audience that this team was ‘totally different,’ from last year, presumably alluding to the loss of longtime center Sylvia Fowles, a former Defensive Player of the Year.
“People tend to forget that even though last year this team went to the Finals, it’s a totally different team,” said Pondexter. “So there’s a building process when you’re trying to win a championship. We had a great year with a lot of spectacular players with accolades and the MVP of the WNBA, but it’s a process with the chemistry that we’re building.”
Indiana will head to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s the Fever’s eighth appearance in the conference finals in the past 11 seasons.