After a slow start to the season, the Chicago Sky have turned it on in recent weeks and reminded everyone why they're the defending champions. That trend continued on Wednesday afternoon, as they took down the third-place Connecticut Sun, 91-83, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates.
The Sky used a late surge in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead, and maintained that margin for most of the day in front of thousands of extremely loud children who were in attendance for the camp day game. At halftime, the Sky had pushed the lead to 23 points, and were shooting a remarkable 83.3 percent from the field. The only reason the final score was respectable was because the Sky got a bit lackadaisical in the second half and ended up with 24 turnovers. Even so, the outcome was never in doubt.
Leading the way as she so often does, Candace Parker finished with a season-high 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks 7-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point land. While she couldn't quite record yet another triple-double, she did write her name in the history books with this performance.
Late in the first half, Parker secured a rebound, made a nifty behind-the-back move to escape traffic, then started the fast break and found Kahleah Copper for a layup. With that smooth sequence, she registered assist No. 1,500 for her career, becoming just the eighth player in WNBA history to reach that mark. In addition, Parker is now the only player in WNBA history to record 6,000 career points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,500 assists.
Thanks to one of the best performances of the season from Parker, the Sky won their fourth game in a row and seventh in their last eight games to improve to 14-5. All of a sudden, they're just half a game behind the Las Vegas Aces for first place. Making this run even more impressive is that the Sky have beaten the Aces, Sun (twice) and red-hot Liberty along the way. In fact, the only game they lost in this stretch was one they choked away against the last-place Fever.
"At the beginning of the season we had a lot of people that were a little gimpy coming into camp, not in the greatest of shape," Parker said. "So it was gonna take us a second, and we know that we had to be a little bit patient and it was gonna come around. Early on it was our offense that was the issue. Defensively I think we were OK. We knew that our offense was gonna catch up, so hopefully we can keep it going, keep up the ball movement."
Chicago's offense has indeed caught up. Following Wednesday's win, the Sky now have the third-best offensive rating in the league at 105 points per 100 possessions. And as Parker mentioned, ball movement is a key part of their success. They had 28 assists on 32 made field goals against the Sun, and are second in the league with a 74.3 assist percentage.
The only thing that prevented this from being a perfect afternoon was Parker appearing to tweak her knee and coming up slightly hobbled in the final seconds. Thankfully, she seems to have avoided an injury.
"I'm fine," Parker said. "I'm just old.