Chicago lost home court with their game one loss to Connecticut and had their worst offensive performance of the season. They responded in championship fashion by defeating the Sun in Game 2, 85-77, thanks to another masterful performance by virtuoso Candace Parker.
For Chicago, in this series, it starts and ends with Parker. Despite how good the Sun bigs are, they have been unable to stop her at all. She had a jaw-dropping 19 points, 18 rebounds and five assists in Game 1 and followed that up with 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists in Game 2. This kind of production from CP3 is canceling out one of the advantages the Sun thought they had going into the series: Size and forward play. It’s hard to imagine Parker can continue to play at this high of a level for the entire series, but it seems like whenever you doubt her capabilities, it comes back to bite you. So far, she’s looking like the best player not only for the Sky but in the series.
Despite the need for productive bigs in the W, it’s still a guards league, and on Wednesday, the guards stepped up. Vandersloot was back to being the best point guard in the league. She had eight assists, kept the tempo up and scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Stat lines never do Vandersloot justice. You truly have to watch her play to see the impact she has on the team. One stat that does help demonstrate this is her plus-minus. She was a plus-23 on the night, the highest of any player on the Sky.
Allie Quigley also had a bounce-back game. She shot 50 percent from three and scored 13 points in her 33 minutes of play. She struggled a bit from the field, shooting 4-of-11, but her three-point shooting still needed to be respected and she created driving lanes for her teammates. As long as Quigley can knock down the three, her shooting more is a positive for the team. The Vanderquigs clicking offensively allowed the Sky to counter any run the Sun attempted to go on. If they can keep up this offensive production, Sky in four is a very real possibility.
Offense might be fun to watch, but it’s defense that wins championships. Game 2 was a prime example of this. Whenever the Sun got things close, Chicago shut their offensive production down. Two key examples come to mind; the first was with 2:35 left in the first. The score was 17-14; the Sky led by three and they went on a 7-0 run to end the quarter. The Sun went 0-of-4 from the field with misses from Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, Courtney Williams, and DiJonai Carrington. In the second quarter came the game-deciding moment; with the Sky up 30-24, they went on an 11-0 run and ended the half up 47-32. Connecticut could never close the gap and Chicago sealed the win comfortably.
The teams have taken each other’s best punch, and the series is now even at 1-1 as we head to Connecticut. The Sky know what they have to do to win. They need Parker to keep up her production, to continue getting offensive production from the Vanderquigs and to be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. If they can execute all of these phases on Sunday, they’ll be up 2-1, regain their home court advantage and be one win away from returning to the WNBA Finals.