The Chicago Sky are WNBA champions for the first time in franchise history.
The No. 6 seeded Sky erased a double-digit deficit and came back in the final minutes to defeat the No. 5 Phoenix Mercury, 80-74, in Game 4 on Sunday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. They are the first team not seeded No. 1 or No. 2 to win the WNBA championship.
It’s the second WNBA title for Candace Parker, who shook up the league by opting to sign with her hometown Sky in free agency last spring. Parker continuously motioned for her team to stay calm in the deciding game and sparked streaks in the third and fourth quarters that kept the series from heading back to Phoenix.
Allie Quigley’s 3-pointers at the front of the fourth quarter kept the Sky in it and Courtney Vandersloot expertly set up the game-tying and go-ahead points, then added the sealing baskets. They are the only two players who were with Chicago in their previous WNBA Finals in 2014, when they were swept by the Mercury.
Parker led all players in rebounds with 13 and added 16 points and five assists. Quigley scored 26 points, going 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and had five rebounds. Vandersloot neared another postseason triple-double, which would have been her second and the third overall, with 10 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds. She set an all-time record for assists in a WNBA Finals, per Her Hoop Stats.
Sky’s defense fuels offense
The Mercury rightly played through Brittney Griner again in Game 4 and took a 12-point lead in the third quarter. But their shots didn’t fall late, and the Sky used it to fuel their own offense. Chicago plays with pace and soars in transition, which the team used multiple times to either start runs or keep them going.
Candace Parker found Kahleah Copper on a cut to the basket and on the next possession drilled a 3-pointer to tie it, 72-all. The Sky’s 11-0 run continued with baskets by Dolson set up expertly by Courtney Vandersloot to make it a four-point lead and a minute until the buzzer.
Diana Taurasi pulled the Mercury within two on two of three successful free throws. Vandersloot pushed it back on a fadeaway jumper and added free throws on a late foul. Parker was already emotional on the court and Wintrust was electric.
Parker keeps Sky calm in comeback
The Mercury held a 12-point lead, their largest of the game, with three minutes to play until the fourth. Parker cut into it with seen consecutive points, all fueled by a re-focused Chicago defense that pulled them within five. Her 3-pointer snapped a skid of 10 consecutive missed 3s for Chicago. She then scored off a pass from Vandersloot on the transition steal and hit two free throws after the defense blocked an attempt by Shey Peddy. Throughout it she kept pushing her hands down in a “settle” motion for teammates.
The Mercury went back up by nine on a last-second layup by Skylar Diggins-Smith off a turnover. Phoenix added points at the end of each quarter in hustle possessions that proved critical.
Allie Quigley went off from range to draw the Sky back into it in the fourth. The collectively had a poor shooting night from 3-point land, but Quigley’s hot streak late drew them within a few possessions. The Mercury went cold late with missed layups and the Sky, though they committed a few offensive fouls, took advantage.
Diana Taurasi into early foul trouble
It was a chippy and physical Game 4 from the onset with bodies hitting the floor and subtle shoves going around. Within the first five minutes, Taurasi drew a technical foul for saying something toward the official. The words barley appeared out of her mouth by the time it was called, much to her irritation. Teammates came in to grab her and prevent Taurasi from saying more.
The official who made the call was Tiara Cruse, the same one who Taurasi shoved twice in succession during Game 2. No call was made for the incident, which happened after Chicago’s Kahleah Copper went after a ball held by Sophie Cunningham. Later the next night Taurasi was fined $2,500, though there is controversy about if she should have been suspended for Game 3 according to the rulebook.
Taurasi said the next day she didn’t know it was a ref, and shrugged it off as Twitter fans making a big deal of it. The day after Game 3, Taurasi met with reporters during shootaround and asked if the arena also kept up the number of fouls as well as the final score from the Mercury loss. The teams were tied with 16 fouls apiece, though. Chicago took only four free throws in Game 2, the Mercury’s victory.
Fifty seconds after Taurasi’s technical, Copper was called for a tech on the other end after a physical back-and-forth with Taurasi under the basket.
The recently named GOAT picked up a personal at 3:13 of the first and added another at 8:41. She drew a third at 3:51 when she charged Candace Parker near the elbow. Sophie Cunningham came in for the rest of the first half. The physicality settled down in the second half with the Mercury taking a seven-point lead, then the largest of the game, into the break.
2021 WNBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Sky 91, Mercury 77
Game 2: Mercury 91, Sky 86
Game 3: Sky 86, Mercury 50 (Sky lead series, 2-1)
Game 4: Mercury at Sky, 3 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN)
Game 5: Sky at Mercury, 9 p.m. ET Tuesday (ESPN2) (if necessary)