Dallas clinches playoff spot with 99-96 win over Chicago

Rosemont, Ill – The Dallas Wings clinched the seventh WNBA playoff spot Wednesday with a hard-fought 99-96 win over the Chicago Sky. It is the first postseason appearance for the franchise since they relocated to Texas last year from Oklahoma.

Skylar Diggins-Smith led Dallas with 28 points and eight assists, while Glory Johnson scored 25 points and Allisha Gray added 11.

After a listless first quarter, the Wings rallied to come within four points to end the half, 48-52. They turned up their intensity in the second half and ended the game with 40 rebounds, 11 steals and six blocked shots, four of which were recorded by Diggins-Smith, who is having a breakout season after tearing her ACL in 2015.

For much of the second half it appeared that Dallas was going to run away with the game after stepping up their defensive intensity, but the Sky rallied to reclaim the lead with 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Wings were able to hold on to the lead by doing some of what has helped them be successful this season: getting to the foul line and wining the battle of the boards.

Chicago tied the game, and Diggins-Smith got to the line to make one shot and give Dallas a 97-96 edge. A few moments later Courtney Paris, who had six points and four rebounds for the visitors, came up with a crucial block to give Dallas an extra possession and run some time off of the clock.

Diggins-Smith, missed a three-point shot and Karima Christmas-Kelly come down with the team’s 20th offensive rebound of the game, got fouled on the play and pushed the lead to three with both free throws. Courtney Vandersloot, who had 15 points and a career-high 12 assists for the Sky, missed a trey at the buzzer. The Wings recorded 26 second-chance points and only allowed the Sky eight.

Diggins-Smith and Johnson were unavailable due to injury and pregnancy respectively, the last time the franchise made it to the playoffs in 2015. Diggins-Smith said the team knows they have one more game that still matters, as they are a half game back of the Phoenix Mercury for the sixth seed. But she said everyone is excited.

“Especially with it being our second year, and we have half of a new team this year,” Diggins-Smith said of the season. “We had our struggles early, but the postseason is different. It’s a race – it’s 0-0.”

Wings coach Fred Williams said his team has been relentless from the beginning.

“I’ve said all along, we’re a relentless team, we don’t give up,” he said. “We were down by 13 at one point in the first half. I told them at half time, just stay with it, keep pushing the ball and make plays on defense.”

Chicago was led by Allie Quigley with 25 points, while Jessica Breland added 22 and Stephanie Dolson, 21 points and a career-high nine assists. They still have a chance at capturing the final playoff spot, but it will require a loss by the Seattle Storm.

Quigley said the Sky just has to focus on themselves.

“Anyone can beat anyone, so we are going to go in confident and not really worry about what going to happen with Seattle,” she said. “Just worry about us and hope for the best with that game.”

Dallas’ final game could be the difference between them playing the single-elimination game at home or on the road. The Wings are 10-6 at home and 6-11 on the road. They will host the New York Liberty Sunday at 1 p.m.