UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — With the game in the balance, Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky turned up their defense and came away with a gritty win to move within one victory of returning to the WNBA Finals for a second straight year.
Parker had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Kahleah Copper added 15 points and the Sky beat the Connecticut Sun 76-72 Sunday in Game 3 of the WNBA playoff semifinals. The Sky lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
“Down the stretch we were able to play (to our strengths),” said Parker, who tied Tamika Catchings for most double-doubles in the playoffs with 27. “I think the biggest thing is sometimes in years past, we would play great defense and give up the offensive board. Tonight we were able to finish the play.”
Copper’s 3-pointer with 6:14 left gave Chicago a 66-64 lead. Then offense was hard to come by: Neither team scored for nearly 4 minutes until Emma Meesseman hit a jumper in the corner to extend the lead to four with 2:26 left.
Connecticut missed eight shots in a row over that scoreless span until Courtney Williams hit a jumper 40 seconds later.
“It was 66-64 forever,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “I wondered if one team would have an offensive run. It was to the point where if a team could put back to back baskets together, they would have all sorts of momentum. … We just couldn’t put together that offensive run when we needed it.”
Chicago scored the next four points with two free throws by Copper and a layup by Meesseman that made it 72-66 with under a minute left. Connecticut got back within two with 22 seconds left on two free throws by Bonner, but Parker made two free throws 7 seconds later.
Bonner then missed a 3 and Connecticut was done. She finished with 18 points to lead the Sun, who had 17 turnovers.
“We have to play on on what we build on throughout the season,” Chicago coach James Wade said. “Playing together throughout adversity, we did a good job of it. We didn’t haven’t many lulls. we were up for the challenge and came out victorious.”
Connecticut led 23-21 after one quarter when Bonner banked in a 3-pointer from about 30 feet just before the buzzer. Connecticut was 8 for 9 from the foul line in the period.
The teams went back and forth in the second quarter with Chicago going up 40-38 at the half. Parker had 12 points and six rebounds in the opening half. Natisha Hiedeman had 12 points for Connecticut.
Chicago led 56-55 after three periods, as neither team could get more than a seven-point lead heading into the final period.
STAT SHEET STUFFER
Alyssa Thomas had just six points, going 3 for 12 from the field, but added 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Meesseman had five steals and six assists to go along with 13 points. … According to ESPN, Connecticut missed 25 of its 41 shots from within five feet.
Parker took a shot to the left eye 3 minutes into the game and briefly left to the locker room. She returned about a minute later but had a noticeable bump over her eye.
“It’s fine, I can see,” Parker said after the game.