Courtside Blog - August 18 vs. Mercury

Good evening Sky fans! Dave here, blogging courtside from tonight’s game between the Sky and the Phoenix Mercury!

A few hours before the game, the Sky players and coaches gathered on the court for their team photo. Following that, Head Coach Steven Key, Assistant Coach Michael Mitchell and Erin Thorn stayed on the court for a half-court shot contest. I saw Mitchell and Thorn each connect on a few shots, but Key didn’t hit one basket. If we need a last-second shot in this one, I’m giving the ball to #5. She seemed to find a bit of a rhythm out there.

Before the game I asked Thorn what the Sky needed to do to get a win against the top team in the Western Conference: “We’ll need to limit their open looks,” Thorn said. “They’re a great transition team. We have to slow them down and make them a half-court team.”

The Sky has never defeated the Mercury in franchise history. But there are many things the Sky has done this season that they’d never done before and I think a victory over the Mercury would be a great addition to that list, don’t you? We’ll find out in 40 minutes—here we go!

It looks like we could have a high-scoring game on our hands tonight. Halfway through the first quarter it’s 14-11 Phoenix. The Mercury is shooting an impressive 75 percent from the floor, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. The Sky, meanwhile, has scored six of their 11 points from inside the paint early on—a good number considering center Sylvia Fowles is not in the lineup tonight.

The scoring continued for the rest of the quarter, and after one, its 27-22 Phoenix. The Mercury’s shooting is now at 59 percent, while the Sky’s has dropped to 36. The Sky has been able to stay in this game by forcing turnovers—Phoenix made five in the first 10 minutes, and the Sky turned those turnovers into seven points! Turnovers are one way to slow down the fast-paced Phoenix offense; the Sky needs to keep that up!

Early in the second, Cappie Poindexter ended a Phoenix fast break with a nice fade-away jumper, but her head coach, Corey Gaines, wanted a foul called on Erin Thorn. “I know she’s strong, but she took a hit,” Gaines told the Official. She did take a hit, but I think Gaines should just be happy a foul wasn’t called on Poindexter because she initiated all the contact. Actually, that’s exactly what the Official told Gaines, because I just heard Gaines explain that to Poindexter.

Welcome to the game Kristi Toliver! She just checked in three minutes ago and she already has nine points! Down to 6:30 now, it’s a 35-34 lead for Phoenix. Toliver comes down and fires a two … make it 11 points for Toliver! Chicago is now up 36-35! What an offensive display by both teams—we could have some records broken tonight!

A timeout is called on the floor—finally, a chance to catch my breath! Both teams have been flying up and down the court all game long, it’s been great to watch! Toliver’s 11-point quarter has helped Chicago take a 41-38 lead with 2:49 to go in the half.

And now it’s Shyra Ely’s turn! Out of the timeout she has seven points, giving her 14 for the game! We’ve now completed a very entertaining first half, and the score is 48-46 in favor of the Sky. Again, Phoenix’s shooting is still impressive (56 percent), but an aggressive Chicago defense has given them a lot of trouble (11 turnovers, 14 Sky points off of those turnovers). It’s great to see the Sky playing so well against the league’s elite offense—can’t wait for the second half!

The scoring frenzy continues! The Sky kicked off the second half with a 7-0 in the first 1:25, and they now lead 55-46!

Phoenix does not hide their desire to run fast breaks. Every time Chicago has been to the free throw line, two Mercury players (usually Taurasi and Poindexter) line up along the baseline at the other end of the court. Coach Gaines then yells out one of three plays (at least that’s how many I’ve heard so far in 28 minutes of play)—C4, C5, or CT. If Phoenix grabs the rebound, they take off down the court in a hurry looking for a quick basket.

What a drive by KB Sharp! She absolutely froze Le’coe Willingham with a brilliant crossover and went right to the lane uncontested for an easy layup! That basket closes out another 10 minutes of end-to-end action. As we move on to the 4th quarter, it’s a 74-69 Sky lead!

Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, an 11-2 run by the Mercury has them back in front of the Sky 80-76. With only two Chicago starters on the court, Phoenix took full advantage and grabbed the lead. Still, with 7:42 to go, we’ve got plenty of time to get that lead back!

Shyra drives for two points! Candice with the steal, fires down the court to Jia, she pulls up for a jumper … and we have a tie ballgame at 91!! A Phoenix miss is pulled down by the Sky, and as a Chicago fast break is stopped by a foul, the UIC Pavilion crowd is on their feet! 3:14 to go now! Hang on fans, we’re going down to the last possession here, I can feel it!

Toliver with a three from the corner!! Sky lead 96-95! On the ensuing possession a tough blocking foul was called on Canty, much to Key’s dismay. He jumped about two feet in the air once the Official signaled a blocking foul instead of a charge on Taurasi. 2:05 to go now …

Poindexter breaks the 100-point mark for her team with a huge three for Phoenix. 101-97 is the lead, Mercury in front, as we head to the final minute. Don’t stop now Sky!

After Kristi and Jia each split a pair of free throws, Taurasi hit a back-breaking 3-pointer, and Phoenix is up 104-98 with 34.5 seconds to go.

Candice makes one of her two free throws, Temeka Johnson hits both of hers, and that’s going to seal this one. It was an amazing game to watch, but a very tough one for the Sky to lose. The final score is 106-99.

This loss hurts—the Sky played very well against some great competition. But if there’s one positive to take away from this one, it’s the fact that Chicago stuck right with the WNBA’s best down to the wire, which is a great sign as we get near the playoffs.

We’ll be back here on Saturday night when the Sky hosts the Detroit Shock at 7 p.m.! After tonight’s amazing game, you don’t want to miss a second of this action! Call 866.SKY.WNBA to get your tickets and we hope to see you here at the UIC Pavilion!