The term “statement game” was thrown around a lot Sunday night in the Chicago Sky locker room.
And as cliché as it may have sounded, the fact is the Sky might have made its biggest statement in franchise history with a 94-86 overtime victory over the visiting Minnesota Lynx.
The Sky rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to turn back a franchise that has the best record in the WNBA and has gotten to the WNBA Finals in each of the last two seasons, winning the championship in 2011.
If there was any doubt the Sky is worthy of its spot atop the Eastern Conference, there’s probably less — if any — now.
The Sky, which tied the game with four seconds left in regulation on a dagger of a 3-pointer from rookie Elena Delle Donne, moved to 15-7 and increased its lead in the East to 2½ games over the Atlanta Dream.
The Lynx dropped to 17-5.
“You brag on a game like this,” smiled Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who pumped in 31 points, pulled down 9 rebounds and rolled up 3 big blocks. “When you beat the No. 1 team in the West, that’s kind of big.
“And a lot of people kind of overlook us. But not anymore.”
It’s hard to ignore the firepower out of the Sky’s twin towers, the 6-foot-6 Fowles and the 6-5 Delle Donne, who combined to score two-thirds of the Sky’s points.
Delle Donne finished with a game- and career-high 32 points to go with 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Her steely calm in the moments before and after she hit the game-tying 3-pointer was uncanny. Especially for a rookie.
“I just thought, ‘It’s going in.’ That’s the only mindset to have at that point in time. I feel like if you don’t have that kind of confidence in it, there’s no way you’re going to make the shot,” Delle Donne said.
“There were four screens set for me and it seemed like (point guard Courtney Vandersloot) had everyone on her, so it was incredible she was able to get the pass off to me. It was such an incredible team effort.”
It was a total team effort from the Sky’s starters, who scored all of the team’s points, hit 31 of 33 free throws and came up with 9 of the team’s 10 total blocks. Vandersloot added 13 points and guard Epiphanny Prince had 10 points.
Vandersloot also finished with 9 assists and took four defensive charges. Overall, the Sky forced 16 turnovers against a Lynx team that leads the WNBA in fewest turnovers (11.7 per game).
“That team is so aggressive and so big that I knew I wasn’t going to block their shots. I just tried to get in position and help on defense any way I could,” Vandersloot said.
“This is just a really good win for us. We were down, but it says a lot about how we didn’t let the score affect us. We just kept digging it out and coming back and coming back and we showed a lot of maturity. We made big plays down the stretch.”
Minnesota, which hit all 17 of its free throws and was threatening until the very end, got a team-high 26 points from guard Seimone Augustus, 19 points from forward Maya Moore and double figures out of two others.
Head coach Cheryl Reeve got tossed in the final moments after her second technical and hugged Sky coach Pokey Chatman and most of the coaches and players on the Sky bench on her way out.
Reeve had to tip her hat. Her team doesn’t usually lose leads. The Lynx is now 81-3 against opponents when playing with a double-digit lead in the second half.
“It was nice to see us have some fight,” Chatman said. “And it was nice to see us get the right people touches when it mattered the most.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.