Sky's fate rests with shooting stars
Chicago needs to solve Indiana Fever defense in Game 2
Elena Delle Donne sat in a quiet Chicago locker room, a fresh scratch on her left eyelid bleeding ever so slightly.
She wasn't ready to nurse the superficial wound because she was occupied nursing a bigger one: a 77-70 loss to the Indiana Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that puts her Sky team one loss from elimination in the WNBA postseason. Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals is Monday.
Delle Donne was quiet and pensive, perhaps conserving her energy to regroup the way she did last week, when she put up 34 points -- 17 in the fourth quarter -- to help the Sky stave off the end of the season in the first round against Atlanta.
The Fever held her down Saturday night. Delle Donne, the transcendent second-year player who is a barometer of her team's championship chances, was 6-of-12 from the floor, finishing with 14 points.
But in the crucial fourth quarter -- which saw her team reel off a 12-1 run to close a 12-point deficit to 63-62 -- she simply wasn't much offensive help.
She took three shots in the fourth quarter, scoring just two points.
"I think we showed a lot of fight," Delle Donne said. "We were down by 14 [in the third quarter] and still able to fight back and get it within one. Indy was able to make some really clutch shots at the end. We just weren't able to chip away."
Indiana, led by the defensive stalwart Tamika Catchings, made it tough for Delle Donne to get in any offensive flow. The 12 shots she took were the fewest she had taken in a postseason game.
"The first thing is trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of her hands," Catchings said. "Not just me, individually, but as a team. We tried to take the ball out of her hands, make it difficult for her to catch it, and when she did, we brought different people out.
"We can do a lot better too."
Delle Donne and the Sky are thinking in the same terms.
After 14 turnovers led to 23 Indiana points, the Sky know they have to clean up in that regard. They need more perimeter shooting, finishing Game 1 with 1-of-8 shooting beyond the arc. Allie Quigley and Epiphanny Prince, the team's best shooters, finished 5-of-16, Quigley hitting the Sky's only 3-pointer.
Hitting a few shots might open things up even more for Sylvia Fowles, who looked to have a big night brewing before Indiana's strong finish and still ended up with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
"You can look at the lack of shot attempts we had; that's one area we need to clean up," said Chicago coach Pokey Chatman. "We'll have an opportunity to have some success."
On the defensive end, Delle Donne said the Sky felt like they have to keep the game in the 60s and limit Indiana's 3-point shooting (the Fever hit a season-high nine 3-pointers) and dribble penetration. Fever guards Briann January and Shavonte Zellous combined for 37 points, scoring inside and out.
"We can be a great team defensively. We need to do that," Delle Donne said.
Chicago is still living on the confidence gained by its last-quarter comeback against Atlanta. That game planted a seed that the Sky can win even if they fall behind.
But with the end of the season looming, Chicago will want to take charge on its home floor, where it was a middling 9-8 during the regular season but won two out of three against the Fever.
This is new territory for Chicago -- in the franchise's first conference finals -- and then again, it's not. Indiana knocked the Sky out of last year's postseason as well.
"We were in a one-possession game [Saturday] with two and a half minutes left," Chatman said. "I'll take that scenario over and over again."
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