The Chicago Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury 82-75 Tuesday night in what has been an impressive homestead.
CHICAGO — The Chicago Sky have found comfort in extremes so far this season.
It’s how they followed up an abysmal opening night loss to the Minnesota Lynx—an 89-71 loss that featured a 10-point third quarter—with a grind-it-out win over the Seattle Storm behind the late-game heroics of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley.
It’s how they managed to rattle off two wins in a row after giving up 103 points to the Washington Mystics.
Diamond DeShields has been a huge part of those wins, and was the leading scorer on Tuesday, dropping 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and hitting five threes. She also added in a pair of assists and three steals. It was DeShields’s third time scoring 20 or more points this season.
If you need tape on what an All-WNBA year would like for DeShields look no further than her performance against Phoenix. She hit tough shot after tough shot, getting only two of her buckets at the rim. DeShields scored off the bounce, spotting up and on pullups—the best the Mercury’s defenders could do was get out of the way.
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Vandersloot turned in 17 points herself to go along with eight assists, which put her at eighth in all-time WNBA assists. Stefanie Dolson contributed 14 points and six rebounds.
Chicago is officially 3-0 at home and 3-2 overall this season after tonight’s win. They’re outscoring teams by just less than six points on average at home and losing by an average of 18 points on the road.
The Sky have simply been different team within the confines of Wintrust Arena. They have certainly had their struggles in all three of their wins. Foul trouble, turnovers and slow second half starts have held Chicago back and kept their games close. But it is hard to ignore just how much better they have been at home.
But the Sky may have found an answer for their road woes through their bench.
Cheyenne Parker only had two points but pulled down 10 rebounds—three of them offensive—in just 13 minutes of play. Kahleah Copper also struggled to shoot the ball, but helped energize Chicago’s defense during stretches of the ball game.
Parker and Copper’s play has allowed head coach James Wade to employ more of a platoon rotation at the four and five spots. If starters Dolson or Jantel Lavender have an off night or get into foul trouble, which happened to Lavender against the Mercury, Wade has legitimate options to turn to off of the bench.
But perhaps the most important bench piece has been Gabby Williams, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the victory. Williams has been able to fill in the gaps at both the point guard and power forward spots—a ridiculous positional range for a player coming off the bench.
“Gabby causes matchup problems for teams, for opposing point guards with her physical, athletic abilities,” Wade said after the Sky’s win over the Storm. “I also think she’s a good decision maker. I think it gives us an advantage with her at the point, and it also gives us a bit of a different look. Because of her physicality she’s a different point guard than Sloot, she’s a different player than Sloot.
None of those three play like their starting counterparts, and that’s been a positive for the Sky—an extreme in play style and impact.
Indeed, Williams does not pass or shoot the ball like Vandersloot, but who else in the league does? Instead, she terrorizes opposing guards with her size and bodies them on both offense and defense.
Copper has not demonstrated the same level of offensive skill as DeShields, Dolson or Lavender, but her interior and perimeter defense at the four spot is her calling card.
Parker might turn out to be the most extreme option of the bunch. To call Parker, a 6-foot-four big with elite athleticism and a demonstrated ability to step out on the perimeter on defense, a spark plug is to undersell just how impactful she has been as of late. She changes the nature of the game when she’s locked in, energizing the Sky with her play in ways few players on the roster can.
Though the bench’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, they have started to provide a steady hand, particularly on defense, when Chicago’s starters sit. That steady hand goes a long way in keeping the Sky moving in the right direction, even as they deal with injuries and some inconsistent play.
If the Sky are going to make their playoff hopes a reality, they need to start showing up on the road and grabbing wins away from home. An impactful bench will go a long in making that possible.
Chicago will get their next chance to grab a win outside of Wintrust on June 15 against the Indiana Fever.
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