The Chicago Sky turned the corner in their home opener against the Seattle Storm.
Recently-elected Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, whose website boldly states that “It’s a New Day For Chicago,” was in attendance to throw up the ceremonial jump ball. And while the team’s victory certainly had its blemishes, it certainly felt like a new day for the Chicago Sky.
Saturday night’s team played the way head coach James Wade has advocated for since he was hired. The win is a positive datapoint for the team’s new style of play. A single proof, but a proof nonetheless, that Wadeball has a future in Chicago.
The team leaned on its big three to implement that system and pull them through the game.
Allie Quigley led the way in scoring for the Sky with 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting along with four assists. Coach Wade summed up Quigley’s scorching night best in a postgame video posted by the team’s twitter account.
“Allie ‘F——’ Quigley, man,” Wade said. “Allie ‘F——’ Quigley, man. She said, ‘Look, man. I played at DePaul, I built DePaul and I built Wintrust Arena.’”
It was a superstar performance in front of more than 7,000 fans for the Illinois native. She scored at will from all over the floor, including a clutch 21-footer to tie the game up.
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Diamond DeShields also dished in 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting as well as two steals and a block. It was a bounce back game for DeShields, who missed all of her seven shots in last week’s loss against the Minnesota Lynx. The second-year guard only played 11 minutes in the season opener due to a head injury.
Although Quigley and DeShields impressed with their scoring, Courtney Vandersloot might have been the most impactful of the bunch. She finished with 10 points and 11 assists, and was only two rebounds away from a triple double.
Despite turning the ball over five times, Vandersloot’s facilitation was unmistakable.
“She’s our floor general, so she puts us in the positions to be successful,” Wade said. “I have two players beside me (DeShields and Quigley) who can tell you that she makes their job easier…so when you have a player like that, a player who is thinking like you on the floor, it says a lot and everybody doesn’t have that luxury so we appreciate what we have.”
The game served as a microcosm for how the Sky might play going forward. Offensively, the trio provide consistency both scoring the ball and distributing it. While pace and space offenses often involve egalitarian approaches to player usage, a more top-heavy orientation may be the route to go if Chicago wants to compete every night on a regular basis.
And Saturday night certainly showcased that top-heavy approach. DeShields played 35 minutes and Vandersloot played 34 minutes in the game, while Quigley put in 30 minutes of playtime.
DeShields is, simply put, irreplaceable in terms of two-way productivity. While other wings on the roster provide different looks on offense and solid perimeter defense, DeShields is on another level scoring the ball.
Quigley is much the same as far as scoring goes. She provides shooting that changes the geometry of the floor for opposing defenses that nobody else on the team can come close to.
As for Vandersloot, Wade still seems to be searching for an answer at the backup point guard spot. Chloe Jackson ran the show when Vandersloot sat out in the season opener, but did not log a single minute against Seattle. Wade experimented with Gabby Williams at the point for brief stints against the Storm, while Quigley and DeShields also shared time as the lead ball handler.
Of course the simple answer could just be a healthy Jamierra Faulkner. But the veteran point guard is still sidelined with a knee injury, and her form upon return remains to be seen. Playing Vandersloot 34 minutes in a game mitigates the backup point guard issue to a small six minute window that Wade can spread across the game.
Those questions will loom large as the Sky move forward and Wade has to decide how to manage the minutes of his stars. But for now, Chicago can enjoy their first win of the season and begin preparation for their next game away against the Washington Mystics.
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