A 17-3 run in the fourth quarter was not enough to for the Chicago Sky to overtake the Connecticut Sun in Tuesday night’s game.
With 4:50 left in the game and her team down 17 points, Diamond DeShields went to the line for the Chicago Sky and sank a pair of free throws. Allie Quigley followed suit a minute later to cut the Connecticut Sun’s lead to 13 points.
A deep three from Courtney Vandersloot, a trio of free throws—including one from a technical foul called on Sun forward Alyssa Thomas—from Quigley and a second deep three from Vandersloot propelled the Sky within four points of Connecticut.
Chicago toppled a massive Connecticut Sun lead in the span of three and a half minutes after trailing for three quarters of Tuesday night’s contest.
But the Sky’s comeback faltered in the last minute of the game, and three straight perfect trips to the free throw line by the Sun ended it definitively.
The comeback came from a team not only coming off of a nine day break—a recipe for sluggish starts—but also from a team that endured the latest saga of travel issues in the WNBA.
Much of the Sky team did not depart O’Hare airport until after midnight due to delays. The original United flight was scheduled to leave at 2 p.m, but those aboard the delayed flight did not arrive at their hotel in Connecticut until after 4 a.m. local time because of further complications with transportation from the airport.
Earlier this season, the Indiana Fever also experienced several hours of flight delays through the night following an away game, and eventually had to bus eight hours home to Indianapolis. The Las Vegas Aces infamously arrived in Washington, D.C. just hours before tipoff to play the Mystics after delays stranded them in McCarran International airport for 24 hours. Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which expires after this season, WNBA teams must fly commercial, rather than charter their own planes.
Despite their hellish night of travel, the Sky looked as sharp as they have all season to start the season, at least on offense. Both the Sun and Chicago played fast, inside-outside basketball in the opening period, combining for 54 points.
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But fatigue and rust were clearly present on the defensive end of the floor, where the Sky were slow to rotate and allowed Connecticut to score from wherever they wanted to. Chicago’s adrenaline-fueled offense eventually came crashing down to Earth to match the team’s sluggish defense. The Sun jumped out to a 14-point lead by halftime and regularly led the Sky by 20 points for much of the game.
Chicago’s comeback came on the back of a string of defensive stops, as well as key contributions Quigley and Vanderlsoot. Quigley finished with 24 points while Vandersloot added 22 points of her own to go along with 11 assists. The duo helped the Sky keep the game within reason for much of the game and each had key contributions down the stretch of the game.
A loss is still a loss on the schedule, but Chicago’s ability to rally under the circumstances is both a testament to the team’s resilience and a reminder of their inconsistency.
“We played at our pace and dictated where we wanted to go defensively,” Sky head coach James Wade said. “We just didn’t do it early enough and we didn’t do it early enough because they didn’t let us. That is a championship caliber team and we just have to learn from this game hopefully take it with us to our next game.”
The Sky will look to bounce back and build their playoff portfolio when they travel to Atlanta to face the Dream on Saturday, August 3. The Dream are 5-15 and 3-7 in their last 10 games.
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