Courtney Vandersloot led a balanced offence with 19 points and the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky raced past the third-seeded Minnesota Lynx 89-76 in the second-round, single elimination WNBA playoff game on Sunday night.
Chicago opens the best-of-five semifinals series at Connecticut on Tuesday. The Sun closed the regular season with 14 straight wins but lost 2 of 3 to Chicago in the regular season.
Vandersloot, a regular-season assist champion for five straight seasons, scored 15 points in the second half, eight in the fourth quarter, including two steals and layups. She contributed five assists but said the scoring mentality was intentional.
“I [said] before the game I was gonna be aggressive,” she said. “I just wanted to get to that next round, it was all that was on mind so I just wanted to be aggressive and hopefully make some shots today.”
WATCH l Sky upset Lynx in 2nd round of WNBA playoffs:
Kahleah Copper scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Sky, Azure Stevens added 15 points, Diamond DeShields 14 and Ali Quigley 11.
The Sky, who lost four of six coming into the playoffs, won with a 22-6 advantage in fast break points fueled by 11 steals. They also dominated inside with a 37-29 rebound margin and made 19 of 20 free throws, 10 more than the Lynx.
Aerial Powers led Minnesota, which had won 9 of 10 to end the regular season, with 24 points. Kayla McBride added 19 and Sylvia Fowles 17.
Fowles, who was announced as the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the fourth time in her career before the game, had 13 points at halftime and didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
“She was really dominant all season long [but] our post players did incredible job,” Vandersloot said. “It was a team effort tonight, trying to make things difficult for her.”
Chicago led 42-38 at the half with Copper scoring 11 points. Vandersloot had seven points in the third quarter when Chicago led by as many as 10.
Up 62-56 entering the fourth quarter, a steal and layup by Vandersloot made it 75-61 with 6:07 to play. Minnesota’s next five baskets were 3-pointers but McBride’s desperation 3-pointer that banked in from the top of the key only pulled the Lynx with 82-76 with 1:51 to play.
No more shots fell for Minnesota and Chicago made 7 of 8 free throws.
“We’ve been working all season to be playing our best basketball right now so we’re feeling pretty good,” Vandersloot said. “Obviously Connecticut has been playing really good basketball … but we’re going to focus on us and try to continue the momentum.”
Griner, Taurasi lead Mercury to OT win over Storm
Brittney Griner scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and Diana Taurasi scored six points in overtime as the Phoenix Mercury beat the Seattle Storm 85-80 in the second-round, single elimination WNBA playoff game on Sunday.
Canadian Kia Nurse scored 12 points in 28 minutes of action, including two free throws to close out the scoring with 15.8 seconds to play. The Hamilton, Ont., native also collected four rebounds.
Taurasi, a game-time decision after missing the last five games with a left ankle injury, hit a tying 3-pointer, a step-back jumper and a late free throw as Phoenix took over down the stretch.
The fifth-seeded Mercury open the best-of-five semifinal series at No. 2 Las Vegas on Tuesday.
WATCH l Griner leads Phoenix to WNBA semis after OT win:
Fourth-seeded Seattle, playing without top scorer Breanna Stewart, opened the overtime with a Katie Lou Samuelson 3-pointer for a 76-73 lead. But from there the Storm struggled, making just 2 of 11 the rest of the way.
The game was tied at 78 when Taurasi, with a big brace on her ankle, hit from the left baseline to put Phoenix ahead for good with 2:14 to play. She grimaced in pain going back on defence.
“You always want to play, you want to help your team,” Taurasi said. “Both teams have battled all year. The ball went our way a little bit more tonight. You know how good Seattle is. Every time we come up here we get our (butt) kicked. We found a way to steal a few possessions and win.”
A final buzzer moment. 💜🧡 <a href=”https://t.co/heUA2JvrJp”>pic.twitter.com/heUA2JvrJp</a>
Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 20 points for Phoenix. Taurasi had 14 points, Brianna Turner also had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Samuelson led Seattle, the defending champions, with 18 points and Sue Bird, Taurasi’s teammate at UConn and on five Olympic gold medal teams, scored 16.
“Trying to be Willis Reed over here,” Bird said about Taurasi before the two exchanged jerseys. “No one on my team understood that reference. Maybe that’s a sign. These fans are going to make me cry in about two seconds.”
‘1 more year’ chants for 40-year-old Sue Bird
Seattle beat Phoenix 94-85 10 days earlier, when Jewell Loyd matched a WNBA record with 22 points in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 37. This time the Mercury jumped out to a 12-point lead before the Storm closed the half with a 15-0 run to lead 35-32 at the half. It stayed close from there but Loyd 15 points, made just 5 of 24 shots.