The Chicago Sky showed off what makes them one of the most dangerous teams heading into the playoffs on Sunday night.
While the refs hemmed and hawed over different replays of the events, “Swag Surfin” by Fast Life Yungstaz came on in Wintrust Arena and most everybody in attendance seemed to move past the brief mixup. Chicago’s bench even got into it, and bobbed back and forth with the crowd.
And who can blame them? The Sky put on one of their best performances of the year, and the play on the court wasn’t too bad either. Chicago controlled the game from the third quarter onward, and were up by 20 points by the time the officiating crew doled out a double technical to Copper and Cunningham.
Six of the Sky’s players scored in double digits, including an 18 point outing from bench big Cheyenne Parker. The only starter to miss out on the double digit club was Courtney Vandersloot with nine points. But the Sky’s floor general supplemented her scoring output with 13 assists without a single turnover. It’s the second time she’s done that this week.
The Sky have been pushing a #SlootForMVP campaign in the wake of Vandersloot’s record setting year. The All-Star guard set the single-season assist record last week, and continues to pile on with an unprecedented string of passing performances.
Vandersloot had nine assists in the first half of Sunday’s contest, including six assists in the first quarter alone. She is now averaging three more assists than the next best player—Kristi Toliver with six assists per game—and has 100 more assists than Chelsea Gray, who has the second most assists this year.
Before All-Star Break, it seemed like Vanderlsoot had a good shot at the assist record—258, which she set herself last year—but now it looks like she may reach 300. Vandersloot’s passing this season has been so ridiculous that it seems inevitable that she will dish out the 17 assists she needs to hit 300 in the next two games.
It’s no secret that Chicago is at its best with Vandersloot on the floor. The Sky’s offensive rating is an absurd 22 points better with Vandersloot on the floor—best on the team by five points and three times higher than the third best player, Diamond DeShields, who has a +7 differential on offense, per WNBA stats.
Vandersloot’s impact was on full display in Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Chicago only turned the ball over six times, and played with some of their best pace all season. The Sky took 15 more shots than the Mercury, and ran Phoenix into the ground on the break.
Chicago’s bigs continue to be impactful
Cheyenne Parker also had her finger prints all over Chicago’s strong performance. In addition to her 18 points, Parker dominated the boards, pulling down five offensive rebounds in the game. Parker has scored in double digits four games in a row now, and has had a return to form in the past few few games.
Parker had fallen off a bit after a consistently impactful start to the season, but she’s turned it on as of late. In the past seven games, she’s averaging 13.6 points, seven rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 20 minutes of play.
“When we’re at a razor-sharp focus, the team’s unstoppable,” Cheyenne Parker said after the game. “We have so many weapons. If we keep that same energy and that same level of focus, I think we’re gonna make a lot of noise in the playoffs, and this definitely set the tone for that.”
Head coach James Wade also credited Sky center Jantel Lavender for her help in the win. Lavender has been sidelined with a foot injury and is likely out for the rest of the season. The veteran has joined Chicago’s broadcast booth in the meantime, but she still found some time to give Wade advice during the game.
“One thing about Jantel is she’s a leader, she has championship experience,” Wade said. “I trust her. So I asked her what she saw and she said ‘maybe you could do this’ or ‘this would help us.’ So I relayed that message to the team and I felt like it helped us a lot. I would like to take credit for it, but that’s all Jantel.”
The Sky will travel for their final two games of the season, first to Connecticut on Friday and then to Washington D.C. on Sunday. The fourth seed, which the Los Angeles Sparks currently occupy, is still a possibility for the Sky, but it will take a strong pair of showings from Chicago to keep in play.
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.