Monday, April 22, 2024

Sky vs. Sun Game 3 score, takeaways: Chicago escapes with gritty victory to move within one win of Finals

The defending champion Chicago Sky are one game away from a return trip to the WNBA Finals. On Sunday afternoon they outlasted the Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of their semi-final series, 76-72, to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five series. 

Much like Game 1, this contest was played on the Sun’s terms. Physicality, fouls, turnovers and missed layups were the themes of the game, which was one of the ugliest you’ll ever see in the postseason. At one point, neither team scored for over three minutes in the fourth quarter. Together they combined for 87 missed shots, 27 turnovers and 34 fouls. Unlike Game 1, though, the Sky were able to pull out a win. 

As per usual, Candace Parker led the way for the Sky. Though she wasn’t super efficient with her shot, she put up 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. In the process, she tied Tamika Catchings for the most double-doubles in playoff history at 27. Emma Meesseman also had a big day, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds, six assists and five steals on 6-of-12 from the field. 

Leading the way for the Sun was DeWanna Bonner, who bounced back from a brutal Game 2, when she didn’t make a single shot, to put up 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Notably, neither Jonquel Jones nor Alyssa Thomas scored in double figures, as the Sun shot 36.8 percent from the field. 

Here are three key takeaways from the game:

1. Meesseman steps up

Emma Meesseman got off to a slow start this postseason, as she failed to make much of an impact in the first round against the New York Liberty or Game 1 of this series. Over the last few games, however, the 2019 Finals MVP has started to show why she earned the nickname “Playoff Emma.” 

She played well in the Sky’s Game 2 win that evened the series, and was even better on Sunday to help them take a 2-1 lead. It was a typical Meesseman performance in that she never made any spectacular plays, but just kept chipping in with a moment here and a moment there that added up in the end. 

Meesseman finished with 13 points, three rebounds, six assists and five steals on 6-of-12 from the field, and was the only Sky starter to shoot 50 percent or better from the field. Her biggest moment came in the final minute of the fourth quarter when she cut into space and converted a tough layup to push the Sky’s advantage to six points. 

2. Parker makes more history

By the standards she set in the first two games of this series, this wasn’t a particularly memorable performance by Parker. She could not buy a shot away from the basket — 4-of-4 at the rim, 1-of-11 everywhere else — took a number of hard hits from Alyssa Thomas, including one to the eye that briefly took her out of the game, and made an ill-advised foul in the final minute.

It’s a testament to her greatness, then, that even when she wasn’t at her best, she still managed to make a significant impact. She led the team in scoring with 16 points while adding 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. With just under three minutes to play she came up with an important block on DeWanna Bonner, and in the closing seconds hit two free throws to ice the game. 

In the process, Parker added another bit of history to her resume. With her 27th career postseason double-double, she tied Tamika Catchings for the most in WNBA playoff history. It’s a safe bet that Parker will soon be all alone at the top of that list — perhaps as soon as Game 4. 

3. Sun’s offensive woes in the playoffs strike again

No team in the league has matched the Sun for consistent success over the past six seasons. The only time during that stretch that they didn’t win 20-plus games was in the bubble when the season was shortened to 22 games. They’ve made six straight playoff appearances and four straight semifinals, but they have no titles and just one Finals trip to show for all of those wins. 

Every season they manage to come up a bit short, often because of their offense. Such was the case once again in Game 3, as they shot 25-of-68 from the field; this was the third time this postseason and the second time in this series that they’ve shot under 40 percent from the field. The Sky have a number of elite defenders and deserve credit for making things difficult, but the Sun’s lack of offensive creation and shooting is also to blame. 

If going against the likes of Candace Parker and Azura Stevens wasn’t difficult enough, the Sky are able to send help and clog the paint because they don’t respect the Sun’s perimeter threats. Unable to find open driving lanes, or get one-on-one matchups in the post, the Sun have looked downright terrible at times. Never more so than Game 3, when they shot 16-of-39 from the restricted area and 18-of-47 from the paint overall. 

The first half, in particular, was so bad that at one point Curt Miller asked his team, “Any suggestions on pro players making a layup? Like, honestly, I’m gonna get fired because we can’t make a layup”

It’s hard to imagine the Sun will be quite that bad around the basket again in Game 4, but they’ll need to figure out a way to get some easier offense if they want to make a comeback in this series and avoid another early exit. 

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