Just in case anyone needed a reminder, Wednesday's buzzer beater by Elena Delle Donne is why the Chicago Sky snapped her up with the second pick in April's WNBA draft. Well, that, and many, many other things.
Delle Donne, looking as calm as if she had done it hundreds of times before, drilled a 10-foot jumper as time expired to lift the Sky to a 70-68 victory over the Phoenix Mercury at Allstate Arena.
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That the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne can break down defenses like a shifty guard is one reason she has made an immediate impact and is a lock for Rookie of the Year. That she can do it with such poise and efficiency with a game on the line has her in the conversation for Most Valuable Player honor as well.
"If you look at any point in the game, whether (Delle Donne) has made five in a row or missed five in a row, she's cool as a cucumber," said Sky coach Pokey Chatman, whose team moves to 23-9 and increases its lead in the Eastern Conference over second-place Atlanta to six games.
"The demeanor is there. She gets in that zone. She's just practiced it (game-winners) so much. She has so much confidence in it."
The last play was actually designed to target center Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince first. But when neither player was open, Delle Donne looked for her own path to the basket.
"We just weren't able to get into the play in time and the clock was running down so I decided I needed to get a shot off, and a spin move was able to get me open," said Delle Donne, who finished with 18 points, just about her team-leading average. "It's great preparation for the playoffs because this is what games will probably be like in the playoffs. You have to grind things out and it's not going to look pretty all the time."
The Sky was down by as many as 10 points to a Mercury team that was without its best player, Diana Taurasi. The veteran guard was serving a one-game league suspension for receiving her ninth technical foul of the season in Phoenix's last game.
But the Sky kept coming at the Mercury.
Prince got hot and hit some big shots, and also knocked down 9-of-10 free throws, to finish with 21 points. Fowles put up another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. And the Sky defense came up big in the fourth quarter, limiting Phoenix to just 8 points.
"To do what we did in the fourth quarter gives you a good feeling going forward," said Fowles, alluding to the Sky's first playoff run, which will start next week. "We know now that if we can put four quarters together like that, we'll be A-OK."
Former Sky star Candice Dupree led Phoenix (18-14) with 15 points.