Candace Parker did just about everything in her power to lead the Sky to a win on Sunday night.
It just wasn’t quite enough.
The Connecticut Sun fended off a massive fourth-quarter push, and a historic outing for Parker, to beat the Sky 68-63 in Game 1 of their semifinals series at Wintrust Arena.
"A lot of free-flowing offenses of the four teams left, and we know who we are," Sun coach Curt Miller said, via ESPN. "We're blue collar. We're going to be good around the basket. We're going to rebound and we're going to defend our tails off, but we have to make it messy. And we got the game messy tonight, which was our advantage."
After a dominant third quarter that limited Chicago to just 12 points as a team, the Sun held an eight-point lead — the largest of the game — and seemed poised to roll to the finish.
The Sky, however, had other plans. Parker, who played in every second of the final two quarters, pushed Chicago to an 11-2 run and tied things right back up midway through the fourth quarter. Things even got a bit chippy during that run, too, and fans saw what has to be the longest jump ball seen all year.
Kahleah Copper absolutely does not want to let go of the ball 😅 pic.twitter.com/UZ0bMbfLsn
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) August 29, 2022
That run, however, didn’t last much longer. The Sun finally found an answer for Parker and held Chicago scoreless for the final 2:11 of the game. That allowed them to push to the five-point win and the early 1-0 series lead.
The Sun had started the night in an early hole too, but they responded with a huge 11-0 run that spanned almost four minutes to take a brief lead after the first quarter. The two teams then entered halftime tied up at 34 after a huge 20 minutes from Parker, who had nine points and eight rebounds at the break. Though the Sky had plenty of moments where they seemed poised to break away, they had seven first-half turnovers that resulted in 11 points for the Sun and kept things close.
Chicago star Courtney Vandersloot finally got on the board a few minutes into the third quarter after sinking a three pointer from the top of the key, which gave the Sky a brief lead. That, however, disappeared in a matter of minutes after a 12-0 Sun run powered by deep buckets from both Natisha Hiedeman and DeWanna Bonner.
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 29, 2022
That run gave them an eight-point lead, which was the largest of the game so far. The Sun ended the third on a 14-2 run in total and held Chicago to just 12 points in the period.
Bonner led the Sun with 15 points and nine rebounds, and she was one of four players to score in double figures in the win. Alyssa Thomas dropped 12 points and 10 rebounds, and both Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones added 12 points too. Despite shooting just about 23% from the 3-point line, the Sun forced 11 turnovers and out-rebounded Chicago by 11.
Parker led the Sky with 19 points and 18 rebounds in a historic outing for the 36-year-old — who became the first player in league history to have 15 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a playoff game.
Kahleah Copper, who turned 28 on Sunday, added 13 points for Chicago and Meesseman finished with 10 points. They were the only three to score in double figures for the Sky.
"I felt like we played their style," Sky coach James Wade said, via ESPN. "They wanted us to play their style of game, where it was slow and methodical, and we like to play a little bit more free ... We'll be ready for it next game."
WNBA semifinal schedule
Game 1: Sun 68, Sky 63
Game 2, Wednesday: Connecticut at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Game 3, Sunday, Sept. 4: Chicago at Connecticut, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Game 4*, Tuesday Sept. 6: Chicago at Connecticut, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Game 5*, Thursday Sept. 8: Connecticut at Chicago, 8 p.m ET, ESPN2