After Sky rally, Delle Donne hits late dagger for Washington as Sky drop home opener

The Sky erased a 16-point deficit in the third quarter but suffered their first loss of the season to the Washington Mystics 71-69 on Friday in the home opener at Wintrust Arena.

The end result was a matter of Elena Delle Donne hitting one shot too many.

Ariel Atkins rebounded her own miss and found Delle Donne open for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 22.4 to play.

Delle Donne, who played for the Sky from 2013-16, finished with 25 points, hitting 10 of 17 shots from the field.

The Sky struggled for much of the night to score against Washington's two 6-foot-5 players inside, Delle Donne and center Shakira Austin.

The game appeared to be just about over when Washington pulled out to a 53-37 lead after Delle Donne hit a jumper with 4:26 left in the third quarter.

But the Sky responded with a sudden 16-0 run.

It started with back-to-back 3s by Marina Mabrey and Dana Evans. Then Rebekah Gardner stole an inbound pass and hit an open lay-in to total 8 points in less than a minute. Kahleah Copper's driving layup tied the score at 53-53 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

"We never thought we were out of the game," Copper said. "We had this togetherness and this pride that we were going to get back into the game, and we were relying on our defense and chipping away and turning our defense into offense."

Mabrey led the Sky with 19 points. Courtney Williams added 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Copper had 12 points and Evans 10.

Two Sky players had to be helped off the court with injuries during the game. Gardner went to the locker room after she jumped to catch a pass and went to the ground holding her ankle. The play resulted in a turnover with the score tied and 38.1 seconds left, setting the stage for Delle Donne's clutch 3.

Forward Morgan Bertsch landed awkwardly after blocking a shot in the final minute of the first half, limped to the locker room and didn't return. Gardner took her place in the lineup at the start of the third quarter. Coach James Wade did not have an update on either player after the game.

After the 16-0 run, the Mystics scored 7 points on their next 2 possessions. Amanda Zahui B hit a corner 3, then Kristi Toliver finished a 4-point play to make it 60-53 after three quarters. The Sky defense forced 7 straight Mystics misses to open the fourth quarter and were able to tie the score at 60-60.

"At the end of the third quarter, that's when I felt we really did everything we could and our energy picked up," Wade said. "It was a good reaction and a testament to the character of the players we have in the locker room."

The Sky never led in the fourth quarter, with the final tie 66-66 after Courtney Williams hit a 3 with 1:08 left.

While starting the season with two road wins, the Sky were good at forcing turnovers, but this time finished with 21 turnovers to Washington's 15.

"We gave it too them too many times," Copper said. "We have to make sure we get more possessions. It'll come, playing together, getting to know each other and adding chemistry."

Things got testy in the first half with Wade picking up a technical foul for arguing calls. At one point late in the second quarter, the fouls were 10-2 and Washington led in free-throw attempts 15-2. The final margin in made free throws was 16-9 in favor of the Mystics.

The Sky (2-1) stay home to face Dallas at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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Chicago Sky guard Rebekah Gardner moves the ball upcourt during the first half of the home opener vs. the Mystics on Friday night at Wintrust Arena. Courtesy of the Chicago Sky
Chicago Sky guard Courtney Williams scored 13 Friday night at the home opener at Wintrust Arena. Courtesy of the Chicago Sky
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