The regular season did not go to plan for the Chicago Sky, but after a detour through the single-elimination first and second rounds of the playoffs, they're right where they expected to be all along. On Sunday, the Sky went on the road and beat the Minnesota Lynx 89-76 to advance to the semifinals, where they'll face the Connecticut Sun.
After an even first quarter, the Sky took the lead going into halftime and never looked back. The big story was their fastbreak offense, as they scored 22 easy points in transition. Courtney Vandersloot went for 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Kahleah Copper (16), Azura Stevens (15), Diamond DeShields (14) and Allie Quigley (11) all scored in double figures as well.
For Minnesota, this brings its season to a close, and highlights the downside of the second round being single elimination. The team went 22-10 this season, but is now done after one bad game. Aerial Powers had 24 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles added 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in defeat.
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Here are some key takeaways from the game:
Sky show up when it matters
The Sky were penciled in as a title contender heading into the season, but those expectations went away rather quickly because of Candace Parker's injuries and their total lack of consistency. No one had any doubts about their talent or ceiling, but you just couldn't count on them to deliver from game to game. So far in the playoffs, however, the Sky have showed up when it has mattered.
It hasn't been perfect, of course, but they've led for the large majority of both games so far, including the final 18 minutes on Sunday against the Lynx. They've regained some of their early-season form on defense, holding the Wings and Lynx to a combined 54 of 136 from the field, and forcing 31 turnovers in the two games. Meanwhile, they're getting contributions up and down the roster -- six players have scored in double figures so far -- and have a 106.9 offensive rating in the playoffs.
Whether they can keep it up remains to be seen and will be the major challenge for them, especially against the No. 1 seed Sun. The good news from their perspective is they passed the first two hurdles to earn a trip to an actual best-of-five series that offers some wiggle room in terms of consistency. Plus, as we saw early in the season when they won seven games in a row, this is a team that can be hard to stop when they really get rolling.
DeShields steps up
After an exciting sophomore season in 2019, in which she made her first All-Star Game and was named to the All-WNBA second team, Diamond DeShields looked like a player on the rise. Then she was limited to just 13 games in the bubble last season and never quite found her groove this summer. There were good games here and there, but she couldn't find any consistency and eventually lost her starting spot.
On Sunday, she picked the perfect time to deliver one of those good games. Coming off the bench, she put up 14 points, three rebounds and two steals on a tidy 4 of 5 from the field. With coach James Wade running a seven-player rotation for the most part, this was just the boost the Sky needed in a one-game situation on the road.
She was putting pressure on the rim all game long, scoring all four of her baskets in the paint and getting to the line for six free throws. The Lynx simply couldn't keep her in front, and there were glimpses of the elite athleticism and finish ability that made DeShields an All-WNBA performer in the past.
Moving forward, DeShields has a chance to be a difference maker for the Sky. If she can maintain this level it adds an extra dimension to the Sky's attack.
Sky get out and run
The Sky were one of the best transition teams in the regular season, scoring 10.8 fast-break points per game -- a mark which was good for second in the league. But the general rule when it comes to the playoffs is that the game slows down and those easy buckets aren't as easy to find.
Someone forgot to tell the Sky, because they turned this game into a track meet. They forced the Lynx into 20 turnovers (their third-highest total all season) and converted many of them into breakaway layups on the other end. At the final buzzer, the margin in fast-break points was 22-4 in favor of the Sky -- an 18-point difference in a game they won by 13.
There were a few especially disappointing ones for the Lynx in the fourth quarter as they were trying to make a desperate comeback. With just over two minutes left they had cut the deficit to seven only to see Crystal Dangerfield give the ball away to Vandersloot, who coasted in to seal the win.
WNBA gear now available
The WNBA Playoffs are on, and the finals start Oct. 10! Show your love for your favorite team and player by scoring the latest WNBA jerseys, hoodies, t-shirts and more. Shop here.
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