Minneapolis – The visiting locker room of the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx locker room couldn’t have looked more different following the Sky’s 91-88 win over the Lynx Tuesday evening.
Chicago rookie Diamond DeShields and her team were full of claps, smiles, and even a dance move or two. Meanwhile, the only time anyone even lifted their head in the Minnesota locker room was when WNBA president Lisa Borders walked in. Besides that, the room was full of players looking at the floor in disgust after what had just taken place.
A game that the Lynx could have won instead was controlled and dominated by DeShields, who scored a career-high 28 points on 11-15 shooting. The Sky as a whole shot 54.8 percent from the floor and forced 17 turnovers, leading to 22 points. At the line, they made 16 of their 21 free throws, while the hosts made just 12-19.
Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, and Gabby Williams all scored in double figures in the Chicago victory, and Vandersloot broke the WNBA single-season assists record of 237, by dishing No. 241.
Maya Moore had 21 points for Minnesota, while Sylvia Fowles had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Seimone Augustus added 14 points.
It was a close game most of the way, but when crunch time came, the Sky were all in and the Lynx were nowhere to be seen. Vandersloot said the team followed the newcomer’s lead and remained urgent.
“I think the flow was working tonight – Diamond DeShields just being Diamond DeShields – makes a big difference, but we always want to keep our pace high no matter what, even if they are scoring, you know this team is tough,” Vandersloot said. “They have a lot of weapons, so even on made baskets were looking to push, and we just outscored them tonight.”
Early on, both coaches mixed up their lineups, providing minutes to players who usually aren’t playing until late in fourth quarter blowouts. Chicago coach Amber Stocks mixed in Kahleah Copper, Cheyenne Parker and Alaina Coates to her starting lineup, and then brought in fresh legs to combat a Minnesota team that at times seemed to forget how to play defense.
While Lindsay Whalen was first off the bench for the Lynx halfway through the first quarter, coach Cheryl Reeve also played reserves Erlana Larkins, Alexis Jones and Temi Fagbenle in the period. The only eligible player w didn’t see a minute was Sydney Colson, who arrived in town the day before after being signed to a seven-day contract.
Reeve said the team let the win get away from them.
“(There were) a lot of things there for the taking that we just didn’t take,” she said.
The two teams battled back and forth for much of the game, including 11 lead changes in the first half alone. Minnesota ended the first half on a 14-5 run, taking a 44-39 lead at the break. But with 3:19 left in the third quarter and Moore on the bench with her fourth foul, the Sky tied it at 55. One minute (and three Lynx turnovers later) Chicago led 62-56 their biggest lead of the night, and Reeve was forced to put Moore back in the game to try to stop the bleeding. By the end of the frame, they had pulled back within two.
After tying the game at 73, Vandersloot blew by Cecilia Zandalasini for an easy layup, and then assisted on a Quigley three-point basket after Moore hit one of her own. From there, Whalen hit her second trey of the game to put Minnesota up 79-78 with 5:22 left to play. Moore came out of the timeout and hit another three, but DeShields kept her team in the game, knocking down three consecutive shots to bring them within one point with 2:15 left to play.
Just a few seconds later, Parker forced a foul on Moore and fouled her out of the game. Parker made one of her free throws while Fowles made one on the other end of the floor to put the Lynx up one with just 1:09 left to play. Minnesota turnover No. 16 led to a Quigley layup and gave Chicago its first lead since the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. With 19.7 seconds left, the Lynx had the ball and needed a hero. Instead, they settled for a fadeaway three-point basket by Jones that was blocked by DeShields.
Stocks said her team took care of the ball.
“I credit our players for being very efficient with the basketball that’s something we’ve been putting an emphasis on is minimizing our turnovers and being efficient,” she said. “We’ve been able to shoot at 55 percent from the field, and against a team like Minnesota, you have to be efficient with the basketball. So that starts with our point guard Courtney Vandersloot, she did a great job at leading and setting the tone for us at both ends offense and defense.”
Reeve was not impressed with Moore’s performance.
“Diamond (DeShields) just destroyed Maya Moore,” she said.
The Sky is out of playoff contention, but 17-15 Minnesota is jockeying for a playoff seed and is currently in seventh place, which would mean they’d play a single-elimination game in round one of the playoffs.
In the third quarter, Fowles eclipsed 3,000 career rebounds, becoming the sixth player in WNBA history to do so. The five players ahead of Fowles are Rebekkah Brunson, Tamika Catchings, Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
Also in the third quarter, Vandersloot passed Ticha Penicheiro for the most single-season assists in WNBA history.
The two teams combined for 31 turnovers. There were 18 lead changes and 11 ties.
Sky had 11 fast break points to the Lynx’s 5, and had 36 points in the paint to Minnesota’s 32.