The Chicago Sky played the Atlanta Dream for the second time in five days. Their star, Elena Delle Donne, exploded for a career-high 45 points to lead the Sky to an overtime victory.
On June 19th, the Chicago Sky watched Angel McCoughtry’s last-second three-pointer erase the luck they’d had earlier, when the referees mistakenly gave Elena Delle Donne points for a basket that shouldn’t have counted.
Today, Delle Donne and the Sky decided their own fate. Delle Donne scored a career-high 45 points, notched a double-double, and made a WNBA-record 19 consecutive free throws, outdueling Angel McCoughtry while helping Chicago to their second consecutive overtime win in a matchup of two of the league’s premier scorers.
Their matchup a few days ago was characterized by early aggressiveness from the Dream, a theme that carried over into the game. A Sancho Lyttle jumper off of McCoughtry’s assist gave Atlanta a quick 11-4 lead.
But a couple of quick turnovers a minute later helped spark Chicago’s offense, giving it more balance after Delle Donne had scored the Chicago’s first four points of the game.
The Sky would take the lead on Cappie Pondexter’s layup four minutes into the second, a lead that Atlanta wouldn’t truly be threatened until the fourth quarter. The closest the Dream got in the third quarter was five points, until Pondexter hit a three-pointer that helped her pass Katie Douglas on the league’s all-time scoring list, placing her in eighth and stretching the lead back to eight.
The Sky seemed to take some lessons from their last game against Atlanta, attacking the basket strong. Coach Pokey Chatman took note, saying that “the thing I was most impressed with was that we stayed in attack mode to the tune of shooting 36 free throws…that’s a mentality because sometimes you get a little bit down defensively and we become tentative.”
Fortunately, tentative is not a word that could describe the Sky’s performance early in the second half.
A layup by Jessica Breland with 6:31 left in the third would be the beginning of a 15-4 Sky run, spurred on by a series of Sky possessions where Delle Donne scored six straight points. Dream coach Michael Cooper was disappointed in his team’s effort during the run.
“In the third quarter, we got away from our defensive principles and what we had been doing to start the game,” said Cooper.
The final quarter started with the Sky leading 57-69, but the Dream came out strong during the first five minutes, outscoring Chicago 16-7. Matee Ajavon’s free throw seven minutes in, gave Atlanta their first lead since the second quarter.
Angel McCoughtry tied the game on a layup with 8 seconds left to play, leaving the Sky with one possession; that possession ended in a Delle Donne turnover, and Sancho Lyttle missed a last-second jumper to send the game into overtime.
The extra period started with plenty of missed baskets, with the only score in the first three minutes and 20 seconds, coming off an Allie Quigley jumper that was the first bucket of overtime.
The Sky would go 2-7 from the field, but their continued aggressiveness paid off. Delle Donne scored 8 points off of free throws while Pondexter pitched in four points of her own, as the Sky outscored the Dream 14-10 in the final period to win the game.
Delle Donne simplified her record-breaking night from the free throw stripe, saying it was simply doing whatever was necessary: “In pressure situations, it’s needed; we couldn’t miss or we’d lose the game. We’re a pretty good foul shooting team, and we’ll have to continue to improve.”
Her perfect performance tonight from the line will definitely help inspire improvement, as the Sky travel to Indiana Friday to take on the Fever.