The Chicago Sky knew what they were getting when they drafted Elena Delle Donne second overall, and the high-scoring forward justified the pick by winning rookie of the year honors in 2013.
She’s showing no signs of slowing down early in her second WNBA season.
Delle Donne will try to help the Sky improve to 4-0 as they play their second on a five-game homestand Saturday night against an Atlanta Dream squad that will have had a one-week layoff by the opening tip.
Delle Donne scored 18.1 points per game in 2013 to help Chicago to its first winning season and playoff appearance. She’s averaging 22.3 points this year and will be called on to continue that type of production with Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince not likely to return for several weeks.
Fowles is recovering from hip surgery and Prince cited exhaustion in taking an extended break after playing overseas during the last few WNBA offseasons.
Delle Donne scored 21 points Wednesday to lead the Sky to a 78-68 victory over Connecticut after a pair of 23-point efforts in wins over Indiana and New York. Her versatility was evident against the Sun during a late 6-0 run in which she had an assist, hit a runner in the lane and started a fast break with a block.
"(I’m) not even looking for my shots," Delle Donne said. "But just kind of somehow playing through me where the defense shifts. It’s just kind of figuring out how to attack in a smart way."
Courtney Vandersloot added 18 points, while Jessica Breland had 14 points and a career-best 15 rebounds for Chicago, which shot 51.7 percent (31 for 60).
"I like the fact how so much is predicated off of Elena, which opens stuff up for other people," coach Pokey Chatman said.
Chicago won three of four meetings last season with Atlanta (2-0), which hasn’t played since outlasting the Fever 90-88 in double-overtime last Saturday.
Angel McCoughtry hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 8.8 seconds remaining in the second OT to lift the Dream and cap her 27-point performance.
Rookie guard Shoni Schimmel had 17 points and 10 assists, Erika de Souza also scored 17 and Sancho Lyttle had 10 points and 21 rebounds.
"What a basketball game!" coach Michael Cooper said. "Both teams played hard. Our training camp was good, and our conditioning paid off."
Atlanta forward Swin Cash makes her return to Chicago after the Sky traded her earlier this month for guard Courtney Clements. The deal also included a swap of 2015 draft picks.
The 34-year-old Cash started all 68 games in her two seasons for the Sky and averaged 9.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists last year.
The two-time Olympic gold medal winner has had a quiet pair of games for the Dream, playing just 19 minutes, after entering her 13th WNBA season with career averages of 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists.