Courtside Blog - July 22 vs. Liberty

Good morning, and welcome to another courtside blog! This is Dave checking in from the scorers’ table, getting ready for a matinee between the Sky and the New York Liberty.

Today is our inaugural Camp Day here at the UIC Pavilion! I am looking around the arena and let me tell you folks, we’ve got thousands of young Sky fans in attendance… it’s definitely going to be loud in here today!!

Once again we have another All-Star to congratulate! Jia Perkins has added to the Eastern Conference All-Star roster as a reserve. There’s no doubt she deserves to be there and it’s great to see the league recognize her game. Way to go Jia!

During the shoot-around, Brooke Wyckoff shared her thoughts on one important aspect of today’s game: “Our defense is going to be key! They run a lot of well-spread offenses … we’ll be coming off a lot of screens. We’re going to need to communicate.”

It’s been a fun first half of the season, hasn’t it? Sky fans have had plenty of reasons to cheer here at the UIC Pavilion as the Sky come into today’s game 6-1 on the season at home. While the team is struggling on the road, it’s hard for me to be disappointed with a team that’s sitting in 3rd place in the conference and is right in the middle of the playoff hunt.

Let’s finish the first half of the season in style … it’s time for the tip!

For a team that’s only averaging 71.1 points per game (2nd lowest in the league), the Liberty are hitting almost every shot they take. Credit has to go to Cathrine Kraayeveld, who has hit her first three shots…all 3-pointers! It’s an 11-10 lead for New York halfway through the first quarter.

We may have ourselves a shootout here fans. Both teams are clicking on offense, with shots going in from everywhere. After one quarter it’s 21-18 in favor of the Sky who is shooting 60 percent from the floor, while New York is at 50 percent. It’s been an even game so far, but there’s one thing that the Sky can do to help their chances: stop Kraayeveld. She’s now hit four 3-pointers, giving her 12 points in the first 10 minutes.

An 8-0 run to start the 2nd quarter by the Liberty forces Sky Head Coach Steven Key to take a timeout with his team now trailing 26-21 with about seven minutes left in the half. Right out of the timeout, Erin Thorn drains a three! This has been a very close game so far—I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go right down to the final possession!

After a Candice Dupree pass intended for Thorn sailed out of bounds, Coach Key hopped off the bench clapping his hands and yelling, “Let’s go!” The Liberty then got an easy layup, Key dropped down to his seat on the bench in frustration. Although it’s only a one-point lead for the Liberty with less than four minutes left, they have all the momentum. The Sky is struggling to find their game right now.

That’s better! Candice pulls down an offensive rebound, fires a pass to Sylvia Fowles, who kicks it out to a wide open Thorn, and she drains another three! That gives the Sky a 30-28 lead as we move under two minutes to go in the second quarter.

Thorn dribbles up the court with about 10 seconds left … she gets held up, drops it back to Jia who launches a three … and it’s good! Perkins was at least six feet beyond the 3-point line when she let that one go, a great way to end an entertaining first half! The Sky leads 33-28.

After Sylvia hit a free throw to finish off a 3-point play, it’s now a 48-36 Sky lead with 5:01 left in the third. Slowly but surely the Sky is trying to pull away and it’s the All-Stars getting it done right now. Sylvia has 15 points, Jia has 11, and Candice has nine rebounds to go with her seven points.

And just as I finish typing that paragraph, the Liberty score seven quick points and it’s now a 48-43 game with 3:47 left. Chicago calls a timeout, Coach Key does not look happy.

Because of my position (about 10 feet from the visitors’ bench) I can usually hear a lot of what the opponents’ coaches say, especially if they pace the sidelines. That has not been the case today, as New York Head Coach Pat Coyle has spent most of her time sitting on the bench. When she needs to talk to a player, she usually calls them over close enough where even I can’t hear the conversation. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a word from Coyle all game. She’s by far the calmest (and most quiet) coach I’ve seen this year. We’ll see if her demeanor changes as we head to the fourth, Chicago in front 56-48.

Erin is on fire! She sinks another three from the corner—her third of the night—giving herself 14 points on the day and giving the Sky a 63-57 lead with 7:25 to go. Right now there are nine bench players on the court: five for New York, four for Chicago. Sylvia is the lone starter in the game.

Sidney Spencer hits two 3-pointers in a row, and the game has turned back in favor of the Liberty. They’re on a 15-4 run right now and they’ve taken a 72-67 lead over Chicago. It’s been quite a show from behind the arc all game long. Chicago is 8-for-19 on 3-pointers, while New York is an even more impressive 11-for-21.

And Jia hits one! The lead is down to 72-70 with 2:40 left. But a few possessions later, Spencer hits another one for New York, and the lead goes back up to five, now with 1:30 left.

New York pulls down a huge offensive rebound with 45 seconds left. Coach Key signals a timeout with 37 seconds left, Chicago trails 75-70. As Coyle walked Essence Carson to the scorers’ table, I heard the first words from coach Coyle all game. She told Carson, “No threes!” The Sky got a few good looks, but the shots just wouldn’t fall. New York wins this one 77-70. It’s a tough loss to take, but the Sky will have a chance to get right back in the win column tomorrow night.

You can follow the Sky on TV for the rest of the week! Tomorrow night’s game against the Washington Mystics will be broadcasted on ESPN2, starting at 6 p.m. Then on Sunday, tune into ABC at 2:30 to watch Perkins, Dupree and Fowles compete in the WNBA All-Star Game from the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut!

We’ll be back here next Wednesday night as the Sky face the Los Angeles Sparks at 7:00. It will be Lisa Leslie’s final appearance in Chicago, you won’t want to miss that one!