Fowles helps Sky beat Dream to clinch 1st in East
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)
On a night the Chicago Sky clinched home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs, star rookie Elena Delle Donne said she doesn't believe her team is playing its best basketball.
Sylvia Fowles scored 18 points and Delle Donne had 15 to help the Sky beat the Atlanta Dream 85-68 on Saturday night to clinch the top seed in the East in the eighth-year franchise's first postseason appearance.
Tamera Young added 12 points to help Chicago (21-8) win its sixth straight to remain one game behind West-leading Minnesota for the league's best record.
''I think we have taken huge strides as a team but what's cooler about this is there's a lot more we can do and improve on,'' Delle Donne said. ''That' what you like to see at a time like this.''
To Fowles and coach Pokey Chatman, securing the top spot in the East was another step in the right direction for Chicago, which will also finish with winning record for the first time.
At least before the season, the Sky clinching the East with five games left was something Chatman wouldn't have expected anybody to predict.
''I wouldn't have listened, just out of respect for this league and the players, and I probably would have figured that person's somebody in my family,'' Chatman said, ''but I would have still taken it as a compliment in terms of them having respect for the players and their ability that's there.''
Rookie Alex Bentley scored a career-high 19 points to lead Atlanta (14-13), which has dropped four straight after a three-game winning streak. The Dream, who have gone 2-12 since a 12-1 start, had their lead over third-place Washington cut to a half-game.
Angel McCoughtry, the league's leading scorer, didn't start for Atlanta due to an injured right ankle, but finished with 17 points.
Chicago led by one point at halftime before pulling away by outscoring Atlanta 30-11 in the third quarter.
''We came out after being off for a week. We just tried to be focused as much as possible,'' Fowles said. ''Just taking a week off is hard in general, but just to come out and feel that way and contribute on the court the way we did tonight, I think it was amazing.''
Atlanta would like some time off just to heal.
Riddled by injuries, Atlanta was without starters Sancho Lyttle (left foot) and Armintie Harrington (concussion), and reserve Tiffany Hayes (left knee).
''It hurts but everybody's banged up at this point of the season,'' McCoughtry said. ''You've just got to try to dig deep and get through the game.''
For a half, the Dream stayed close to the surging Sky. But that ended during the third, when Chicago shot 8 of 16 and Epiphanny Price scored nine points. Atlanta, which had shot 55.9 percent in the first half, hit just 4 of 16 in the third.
''Layups, man. It's layups, and a lot of those chip-shots didn't go down for us,'' Dream coach Fred Williams said. ''They were able to leak out and get some nice transition baskets on us and then also hit some big-time plays with some jump shots.''
Chicago has been making big plays for most of the season after failing to top 16 wins in any of its first seven seasons.
Chatman says her focus isn't chasing down Minnesota for the best record, but more improvement for her own players.
''We're always trying to concentrate on the next game and win that game,'' Chatman said. ''We don't have the luxury of having things figured out, despite the good record and positive play.
''There's still a lot of growth and experience and minutes that we need to gather so we continue to be a better team.''