Sky dig deep for must-win game over Liberty
A golden opportunity for the Chicago Sky almost became a tarnished regret Wednesday night at Wintrust Arena.
The Sky fell behind early to the New York Liberty, a team that sits lower in the WNBA standings, a team that had lost its previous three games, a team that had yet to beat the Sky in its previous two chances this season and a team that is one of the worst shooting teams in the league.
Winning at home, against a team that it should beat on paper, before heading out on a brutal West Coast road trip against two of the top teams in the WNBA, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, was paramount for the Sky.
Somehow, New York flipped its shooting woes upside down and built a lead as large as 10 points against the Sky. Yet a 51 percent shooting clip, a game-high 24 points from all-star forward Tina Charles and unexpected production from the bench (21 points from reserve guard Rebecca Allen and 16 points from reserve guard Marine Johannes) still wasn't enough for the Liberty.
The Sky, sitting in fifth place prior to the game, dug deep and capitalized on the moment, making enough big plays late. The Sky outscored ninth-place New York by 16 points in the second half to get a 101-92 victory.
"It shows our toughness," Sky coach James Wade said of his team's resolve to claw back and move to 13-9 on the season. "Of course, any coach doesn't want to be in those situations, but it just shows how much grit we have. So that satisfies you. (The Sky) showed a lot of veteran play, leadership. This shows a lot of things. (Sky players) don't get (rattled), they just come together. That says a lot. They like playing together and coming together."
The Sky got double-figures from four of five starters, led by former DePaul guard Allie Quigley, who had 22 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
Forward Jantel Lavender muscled for a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Diamond DeShields and Courtney Vandersloot chipped in with 16 points apiece. Vandersloot also added 8 assists, right at her league-leading average.
"I think our team is getting to the point where we're finally starting to come together and learn each other," Lavender said. "Sometimes you do have adversity at the beginning of the game but I think we always counter that. We execute our offense, we get stops, we get tips and deflections and that's when our team is at its best."
New York, which drops to 8-14, still finished with a higher shooting percentage than the Sky (51 percent to 46 percent) and more 3-pointers (11 to 5) than the Sky, which is the second-best and most prolific 3-point shooting team in the WNBA. Mistakes also became a problem for the Liberty, which was hampered by 17 turnovers, many of which came late.