Sky brings the Hoops Championship buzz back to Chicago

CHICAGO – It’s been over 23 years since Michael Jordan stole the ball from Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone, ran the length of the pitch an...

CHICAGO – It’s been over 23 years since Michael Jordan stole the ball from Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone, ran the length of the pitch and nailed a jumper to give his Chicago Bulls a victory of one. point in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The unforgettable streak secured the Bulls’ sixth championship and allowed Chicago fans to revel in a moment of shared pride.

It had been a long time since professional hoop fans in this city had experienced that sentiment, but WNBA’s Sky kept them updated on high-stakes basketball.

Dressed in blue and yellow jerseys on Friday night, impatient Chicago fans gathered in Wintrust Arena to watch Sky take on the Phoenix Mercury in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

The city’s aspiration for a championship was manifested in the atmosphere. Fans swirled napkins over their heads during Sky player presentations. They booed and heckled Mercury players every possession. And they roared and bounced around the arena with every basket made in Chicago. All. Alone. A.

Towards the end of the game, after Chicago was on track to an 86-50 victory That would prevent Sky’s victory from winning its first championship in franchise history, one Sky fan shouted “better luck next year” to Mercury players on the pitch.

In the fourth quarter, the two teams had already replaced their starters. “Heaven in Four” chants erupted at the entrance to the Chicago bench, making it clear that Chicago is, once again, ready for a championship moment.

Game 4 is Sunday in Chicago. The Sky leads the series in best of five, two-to-one games.

“I really feel Chicago. I really feel it, ”Sky coach James Wade said after Friday’s game. “The way they came out and supported, you can feel the passion that they have. It just gives us more passion. Hopefully we can see the same things on Sunday and we can all celebrate together.”

Chicago’s ability to build on the strengths of its stars puts the team on the verge of winning a title. The vocal leadership of Candace Parker at both ends of the floor. Guard Courtney Vandersloot’s skill at finding open teammates and facilitating offense (she had 10 assists on Friday). And Chicago has increasingly relied on the athleticism of forward Kahleah Copper, the way she outperforms defenders and the way she benefits from one-on-one clashes – skills that have made her she is one of the most outstanding players in the final.

Sixth-seeded Sky used a team-dominant defensive performance and statement play from Copper to gain potentially decisive momentum in Game 3, after upsetting fifth-seeded Mercury in Game 1 and run out of overtime in Game 2. They tied a WNBA Finals record for most halftime lead (22), set the record for most winning margin in a Finals game (36) and held the Mercury at 25. , 8 percent of the shots at night.

Parker, a native of Chicago suburb Naperville and signed with Sky after 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, has 13 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds.

Copper scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half as the Sky pulled away early, eliciting deafening roars from the home crowd, which included the Chicago native. Chance the rapper, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

“The one thing that is probably not talked about as much – its competitiveness,” Wade said of Copper. “That’s what it takes to take it to the next level. We saw her every day, even when she wasn’t playing so much. So it is not a surprise for us because we know what we have in it. Now she’s letting the world know. It’s just who she is.

Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said after the game that Phoenix just couldn’t handle Copper, who was 6 of 10 off the floor.

“We allowed him to sweep and go way too far down the baseline,” Brondello said. “When she films it from the outside, you have to give up something, don’t you? And she did. She had a very good game, and obviously it took our lives a bit. “

The Phoenix Big Three’s scoring, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith, kept the team alive in critical games throughout the playoffs. They totaled 56 points in the decisive fifth game of the semi-finals against the Las Vegas Aces. Now, even after an unusually bad night of shooting against the sky in Game 3 – they were a 10-for-36 combined on the field – they may be the key to keeping Mercury’s season alive on Sunday.

Teams in the playoffs and for most of the regular season had little response to Griner’s dominance under the basket. It’s a one-on-one nightmare at the low post and has improved to take out double teams to find open teammates on the perimeter.

Sky invaded Griner early, however, and held her to just 4 points in the second half on Friday, for a total of 16 after scoring a career-high 29 points in Game 2.

When she had open looks, “she just missed them,” Brondello said. “They played a little more in his space. I think in the second half you saw that she went to right hook.

Brondello later added: “She’s still someone we need to get the ball as much as possible.”

Phoenix last won the league title in 2014, when he defeated Sky for their third championship in franchise history. This time, both teams had a difficult journey to the final. The Sky finished the regular season with a 16-16 record, and few qualified them to advance to the final. The Mercury limped into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, plagued by injury.

Could Sunday mark the end of an unlikely playoff race for both teams?

Head down at a post-game press conference and Taurasi seated to her left, Diggins-Smith summed up what the Mercuries need to do to extend the streak and get her back to Phoenix.

“Attribute it to the game,” said Diggins-Smith, indicating Phoenix’s need to quickly get past Friday’s underwhelming performance and refocus.

“We didn’t lose the series tonight.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Sky brings the Hoops Championship buzz back to Chicago
Sky brings the Hoops Championship buzz back to Chicago
Newsrust - US Top News
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