Brian’s Courtside Blog - June 3 vs. L.A.
Before the game even started, you could feel the excitement and energy in the building, and the anticipation of hometown hero Candace Parker’s return to Chicago. There were lines to get in, traffic jams in front of the parking garage. I hope we have lots more crowds like this through the summer!
“Can you feel it Brian, it’s gonna be crazy in here tonight,” said my buddy Demetris at the scorer’s table…before either team even took the floor for pre-game warm-ups!
Three minutes into the game, Sky rookie sensation Sylvia Fowles swatted a Marie Ferdinanad-Harris shot attempt out of bounds. The sellout crowd quickly rose to their feet and filled the arena with cheers. The crowd was a little schizophrenic tonight – cheering for the Sky AND cheering Parker’s every move.
Midway through the first quarter, Lisa Leslie taught Fowles a veteran lesson on why you need to stay patient on the defensive end. Leslie caught the ball in the middle of the lane as Fowles closed out on her. Leslie gave a quick pump fake and got Fowles to leave her feet. As Leslie went around Fowles for the easy lay-up, the fans gave out a loud OHHH. Over time Fowles will learn what it takes. In a few years she will become what Leslie is today, a dominant, respected WNBA center.
This is the matchup (Fowles vs. Leslie) I was most looking forward to. It’s always great to see the future take on the present. Leslie is a household name in women’s basketball, and has dominated the WNBA for a decade. Fowles has shown flashes of brilliance early on this season. .
At the end of the first quarter Cathy Joens hit a running jump shot from the left side of the lane that rattled home after rolling around the rim a few times. As the horn sounded to end he quarter and the Sparks bench got up to meet with Head Coach Michael Cooper, Parker remained sitting, and moved to the end of the bench to have the trainer look at her shoulder. What a huge disappointment it will be to this capacity crowd if she is not able to return to tonight’s game.
The crowd was on its feet again with just under 5 minutes to go in the half as Fowles gave the Sky their first lead of the game, with a lay-in over Parker. Fowles sprinted back down the court full of energy, Parker dropped her head and appeared frustrated as she made her way back down to the offensive end.
A few plays later Parker took the ball hard to the rim, but was met by all 6-foot-6 of Fowles, who redirected her shot. It was funny to watch as all Parker could do was roll her eyes and smile as she ran back the other way.
Early on in the third quarter, Fowles got everyone back up on their feet as she literally put one hand on top of a Leslie jump shot and spiked it to the floor, much like the great Walter Payton would have after he scored a touchdown.
Later on in the third, Fowles trailed Milton-Jones on a breakaway. She went up and blocked the shot – and actually got called for goal-tending. As she came down, she hit the post of the basket and laid on the floor for a few minutes. Scary moments for Sky fans. Assistant Coach Mike Mitchell helped her up and walked her off the court. She did not return to the game, and we found out later it was a knee strain. After the play, you could feel a bit of the energy from the crowd get taken away as L.A. extended their lead.
On a funny note, a group of 4 young boys sat behind one of the baskets tonight. They couldn’t have been much older than 12, and they had their shirts off with “S-K-Y-!” painted across their chests, one letter on each chest. Every time the team would score a basket and at game breaks, they jumped up and down in the aisle.
Jia Perkins almost blew the roof off the Pavilion as she nailed a three pointer with just over 3 minutes to go in the game to tie the score up at 62-62. I have attended every Sky home game in team history but one, and let me tell you, I have never heard anything quite like the roar of the crowd when Perkins hit that shot…believe it or not, it was topped on the very next possession as Candice Dupree converted a lay-up and was fouled on the play to give the Sky their first lead of the second half!
Dupree showed to everyone at the game why she is a two-time All-Star. With 46.7 seconds remaining in the game she stepped to the line with the Sky down one and hit both of her free-throws to give her team the lead. This is what the Sky needs, someone who is willing to take control in the closing minutes and help close out games.
Dominque Canty followed suit, knocking down two more clutch free-throws to knot the game up at 69-69 and send it into overtime. Could there really have been a better way to settle this much-anticipated game, than by playing a few extra minutes of basketball? The Sky earned their overtime shot -- they outscored the Sparks 26-13 in the 4th quarter.
Overtime, however was not as kind. The Sky was outscored 12-8 in the extra period, losing 81-77. The sellout crowd got everything they wanted tonight except for a Sky victory. This was by far and away the most electric night the Sky has had in the team’s short history. Thanks to all you fans who helped sell out the UIC Pavilion tonight! Be sure to come back out to our next home game, this Saturday at 7pm when the Sky welcomes the Atlanta Dream to the Pavilion for the first time in history.
BTW, Dwayne Wade made his second appearance at a Sky game this season. This time he was accompanied by Antonie Walker of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Candace Parker’s fiancé Shelden Williams was also in the house. And Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child and minority owner of the Sky, was sitting courtside and previewed her new music video at half-time. I’m telling you, Sky fans, our games are the place to be this summer -- you never know who you may see. Or what you may see!