The Year the Sky Almost Made the Playoffs

In 2009, the Chicago Sky enjoyed their finest year since joining the WNBA. Second year coach Steve Key had the team playing near .500 ball all season and fighting for a playoff spot. The addition of top rookie Sylvia Fowles to WNBA All-Stars Candice Dupree, Dominique Canty and Jia Perkins made the Sky a formidable foe.

The season came down to the final game, a home contest against top rival and defending WNBA Champion Detroit Shock. A Sky win would tie them for 4th place with Detroit and one game ahead of Washington and Connecticut who finished the season at 16-18.

The game started with good news for the Sky. Shock starter Katie Smith would miss the game with lower back pains and top sub Alexis Hornbuckle would also sit with a hamstring strain. The Shock were already without coach Bill Laimbeer who resigned in June, All-Star Swin Cash who left as a free agent after the 2007 season and former Sixth Woman of the Year Plennette Pierson who was sidelined for the season by injury in the Shock’s first game of 2009.

The Sky started strong jumping out to a 12-2 lead after four and a half minutes. They maintained their strong play thru the end of the first quarter, leading 20-12, with Candice Dupree topping the Sky with 11 points and 3 rebounds. The second quarter was a continuation of the first with the Sky outscoring Detroit 21-10 to take an 18 point lead into the locker room. Candice Dupree accounted for 19 of the Sky’s 41 points while the Chicago defense held Detroit all-stars Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford to a total of 2 points for the half.

Chicago Sky PA announcer Ray Clay urged the crowd at halftime to go to the Pavilion box office and buy their playoff tickets. And, as the second half started, many fans were still lined up to get their chance to see the Sky’s first ever playoff game.

The first couple of minutes of the second half were back and forth with the Shock only able to trim the lead by 1. Then, the game changed. 7 minutes and 27 seconds later, the Shock had a 23-5 run and were in front by 4. A 3 pointer by WNBA vet Nikki Teasley started the scoring and was followed by a two 3 pointers by Deana Nolan. Nikkie Teasley hit a 19 foot jumper, 5 consecutive points by Nolan, another 3 pointer from Teasley, a Shavonte Zellous lay-up and finally 4 consecutive points from Kara Braxton.

During the run, the Shock were 8-10 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line. The Sky were 1-11 from the field, 3-4 from the free throw line and committed 3 turnovers. The Shock stretched the lead all thru the 4th quarter eventually winning by 11 points. For the second half with a playoff appearance on the line, the Sky were outscored 58-28, shot just 9-27 (33.3%) from the field and committed 8 turnovers. The undermanned Shock countered with 20-34 (58.8%) shooting, only 3 turnovers and outrebounded the Sky 21-7 for the half.