The Chicago Sky turned up the speed in Wednesday night’s first round victory over the Phoenix Mercury
Late in the first quarter of the Chicago Sky’s first round playoff game, Diamond DeShields hit a layup on the break.
And then another, this time after stripping the ball from DeWanna Bonner. DeShields ran the floor again a minute later and found herself alone, laying the ball in for another easy two points.
The simple truth of the matter is that Diamond DeShields doesn’t get tired because tired doesn’t win playoff games. And when the Sky entered the second half up only three points on a Phoenix Mercury team that refused to go away, DeShields decided to go out and take the game herself.
What has made Chicago dangerous all season, beyond the swing-it-around passing and the knockdown shooting, is their speed. Relentless and crushing, the Sky used that speed to grind down the Mercury as the game wore on.
DeShields embodied that play style on Wednesday, zipping up and down the court with perfect timing in transition. She was able to get defenders off balance with change-of-pace angles and by attacking off the bounce.
More from Chicago Sky
- Bet $5 on Sparks vs. Sky, Win $150 Instantly with Limited-Time DraftKings Promo
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, October 21: Former Texas Tech coach Stollings files lawsuit
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, October 8: The Storm are WNBA champions. What’s next?
- Women’s Basketball, September 17: NCAA Hoops to start Nov. 25
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 14: Mystics are going dancing
She played in 28 of 31 possible minutes before being subbed out early in the fourth quarter. DeShields had 10 points in the third quarter and carried the lion’s share of scoring responsibility on offense.
“There’s no rest in the playoffs,” WNBA Coach of the Year James Wade said before the fourth quarter.
The Sky are going to try and play fast again on Sunday when they travel to face the Las Vegas Aces because that’s how they play best. But the Aces like to run ‘n’ gun too, and they’ll present a much stiffer challenge than the Mercury.
Phoenix was without star center Brittney Griner for most of the game after Griner suffered a leg injury in the first half. Losing Griner meant losing what chance Phoenix had left of dictating the pace of the game, and Chicago capitalized, outscoring the Mercury 52-35 after Griner subbed out for the last time early in the third quarter.
Left to command the ship was DeWanna Bonner, who poured in 21 points, and Briann January, who finished with 12 points. Phoenix simply did not have the personnel after an injury-plagued season left them shorthanded in the playoffs.
Las Vegas won’t have that same problem. With Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson coming into Sunday full strength, Chicago’s front court will need to get a lot more creative on defense to contain Bill Laimbeer‘s two-headed attack. That’s not to mention Kayla McBride’s overall stellar play and shooting, or Dearica Hamby’s ability to demolish bench bigs when Cambage and Wilson sit out.
Against the Aces, Chicago will have to continue to rely on DeShields’ superstar-level play in the second round.
DeShields struggled in the Sky’s first two outings against the Aces, shooting 25 percent from the field and going 0-for-7 from distance. In her third game, Diamond shot lights out from deep, with five threes, but struggled from everywhere else, going 3-for-10 from two. She was able to make an impact from the line in all of those games, but a more versatile performance like Wednesday will go a long way in helping the Sky upset the Aces at home.
There’s hope that she can replicate that stat line. Chicago continuing to play fast will go a long way in making that happen.
Phoenix was able to get Chicago stuck in the half court in the second quarter, but a stellar run from Astou Ndour in the paint kept the Sky afloat while the offense figured things out. A team like the Aces will likely go for the kill if Chicago allows that to happen again.
DeShields only scored once during that stretch of the game. When she’s in the half court, DeShields can get too reliant on her pull-up game, which rates out in the bottom third of all players, per Synergy Sports. She is best coming off screens and spotting up in the half court, which can open things up for her teammates. Las Vegas, however, is the third-best team in the league at defending in the half court, per Synergy Sports, and will have had more time than the Sky to gameplan.
DeShields is at her best leaking out and running off-ball on the wings on the break, plays she got plenty of points off of against Phoenix.
“I just knew there was kind of an opportunity for me to outrun them,” DeShields said after the game, “and so I know when I’m doing that it makes everybody else’s job easier.”
In the open court, nobody else can match her athleticism and teams’ defensive tactics go out the window amidst the scramble.
She regularly turns two-on-three fastbreaks into one-on-ones by outrunning defenders, leaving them at her mercy. While players are still turning their heels, huffing and puffing, DeShields is already halfway down the floor, calling for the ball, eyeing her next target.
If Chicago is going to slay the Goliath Aces, pushing the tempo to a feverish level could be their game plan for success.
Luckily for the Sky, Diamond DeShields thrives in the fast lane.
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.