Sky Stumble Against Fever

It wasn’t quite the resounding statement game of redemption you might expect with a healthy starting lineup that includes the league’s fourth best scorer as the Chicago Sky lost a tough, hard-fought dogfight to visiting conference rival Indiana Fever 64-58 in their third matchup of the regular season.

In a game stamped by hard fouls, physical play and no double-digit leads, the Sky battled hard against the WNBA’s best defense and reigning champions. Hoping to redeem themselves from a disappointing 79-58 loss to Indiana on Saturday, where they were without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne, the Sky returned home with focus and fought until the very end.

Despite out-rebounding the Fever 40-29, the Sky also recorded 18 turnovers, which wasn’t quite enough to compensate for Indiana’s defensive discipline late in the game. Indiana, who leads the league in scoring defense, held the Sky to a season-low 58 points in both of their previous matchups.

Once again Sylvia Fowles put the Sky on her back and notched her ninth double-double of the season. The center finished with 14 points, 17 boards and had several big-time blocks

Tonight’s game marked the return of Delle Donne into the starting lineup. The guard/forward sat out the previous two games, including Saturday’s loss to Indiana, due to a concussion injury she suffered on July 24 against Washington. Delle Donne finished with 12 points.

“A tad winded, but that’s to be expected,” Delle Donne said at halftime about her first game back. “But I’m feeling really good, it’s just great to be out there.”

The Sky had a slow first few minutes but began to roll momentarily midway through the first quarter when Delle Donne scored her first points in two weeks as she knocked down three-pointer from the top of the key and hit a pull-up jumper. After that Fowles blocked two shots on consecutive defensive possessions, and guard Courtney Vandersloot slipped past the Indiana defense for a pair of layups on the other end.

Epiphanny Prince (11 points, three assists) struggled to knock down shots, going 3-for-10 from the field and only knocking down one free throw. She posted her first points at the 5:29 mark in the second quarter on a tough drive that gave Chicago their biggest lead of the half. But Indiana fought their way back, led by four straight points from Fever guard Tamika Catchings after a layup and two free throws to even the score 29-29 going into the locker room.

With Vandersloot on the bench with four fouls for most of the second half, the Fever were able to gain some momentum in the third quarter. Despite hustle plays and extra defensive effort from guard Shay Murphy, Catchings reached double digit scoring in the third quarter. Then five straight points from Indiana put the Sky in a 7-point hole. But then Prince made a huge play on a drive down the lane where she converted the layup and got fouled. The play cut Indiana’s lead to two points and drew loud cheers from Chicago crowd.

With the score 43-41 at the start of the fourth quarter, it was Allie Quigley time. The guard (six points) made a nice step-through move in the lane followed by a long two-pointer from the opposite corner on the next possession. Vandersloot re-entered the game and got a big steal from a fortuitous bounce off the referee that Sylvia Fowles put in for two on the other end of the floor.

With the Fever up 55-49 with four minutes to play in the game, the Sky needed to make a move and get some stops on the defensive end. On that note, Delle Donne knocked down two back-to-back shots, but a missed shot from Quigley that would’ve cut Indiana’s lead to a point seemed to signify another impending loss to their conference rival.

Tamika Catchings led all players with 18 points along with eight rebounds. Shavonte Zellous (14 points) and Karima Christmas (10 points) also scored in double digits for the Fever

The Sky have one last chance to even the regular season series when they meet Indiana again in early September. Next up, the Sky (13-7) travel to Connecticut on Friday to take on the Sun (6-13) who are coming off a close loss to the Sparks earlier tonight. That game can be seen on The U Too and WNBA Live Access at 6:00 pm CST.