It would be tricky to divide a basketball into five equal parts. So it's a good thing the reserves for the Chicago Sky are likely satisfied simply with the symbolism behind Pokey Chatman's gesture Saturday night.
The head coach gave the game ball to the five players on her bench, a well-deserved nod for a 35-point, 17-rebound collective effort that was key in the Sky's 87-73 victory over the defending Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream at Allstate Arena.
The Sky, which moved to 4-0 on the season, outscored Atlanta (2-1) 35-28 in bench points.
"I think it's huge that when the second team comes in, you don't just try to keep things the same, you try to make them even better," said Sky reserve guard and former DePaul star Allie Quigley, who exploded for 13 points, including a trio of big 3-pointers, in 19 minutes of action. "Our goal is to come in and be aggressive and make good things happen."
Good things kept happening for the reserves. Two other players off the bench also scored in double figures. Rookie center Markeisha Gatling had the best game of her young career with 10 points, while guard Courtney Clements -- who came to Chicago from Atlanta in a trade that sent former Sky forward Swin Cash to the Dream -- also finished with 10 points. Clements, who had been averaging 1 point per game, was 2 of 3 from 3-point range and hit some critical long-range shots as the Sky was making its final push late in the second half.
"(Production from the bench) helps us (starters) just to be able to take a deep breath," said Sky star forward Elena Delle Donne, who tallied a game-high 27 points. "The starters, at first, weren't flowing the way we usually do, so to have them come in and lift us is so important."
The starters eventually got going, particularly Delle Donne, who started out 1-for-5 from the field but ended up hitting 7 of her final 10 shots. She also was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line in a game in which the Sky attacked the rim and got Atlanta's key big players (Sancho Lyttle and Erika DeSouza) into foul trouble.
Starting point guard Courtney Vandersloot added 10 points and 11 assists for the Sky.
The Sky held an Atlanta team that is averaging a WNBA-best 91 points per game to 73 points. Granted, all-star guard Angel McCoughtry (24 ppg) was a late scratch with a shoulder problem, but the Sky still forced Atlanta into a lot of mistakes on the offensive end. The Sky scored 24 points off 17 Dream turnovers. The Sky also blocked 8 shots.
"I just think the bench did a really good job," Chatman said. "Everyone wants to talk about your bench when they don't score. But no one realizes when they step up and play good defense how important that is."
DeSouza wound up with a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta while rookie guard Shoni Schimmel added 17 points and 8 assists. Cash, who started in place of McCoughtry, finished with just 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes.
The Sky, off to its first 4-0 start in franchise history, host the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at 2:30 p.m. on Monday for a special Memorial Day matinee.