Elena Delle Donne’s shooting struggles have put the Chicago Sky’s season on the brink.
Held in check by the Indiana Fever in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the 2015 WNBA MVP looks to get on track in Monday’s deciding Game 3.
Indiana limited Delle Donne to 14 points on 5 of 15 shooting in Thursday’s opener, but the Sky received big games from Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot to earn a 77-72 victory at home. Delle Donne was just 3 of 9 from the field for 11 points and held scoreless in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Game 2, in which the Fever rallied for a critical 89-82 win in Indianapolis.
Tamika Catchings amassed 22 points and nine rebounds in Indiana’s first victory in six season meetings with the Sky, while Marissa Coleman scored two key baskets during an 8-2 run that put the Fever ahead 85-80 with 3:10 remaining.
”Our focus down the stretch was magnified,” said Catchings, who had 21 points in Game 1. ”We executed offensively and defensively. Everybody zoned in. You could see it in their eyes. The first game we were so tense, like we wanted win the game so bad and everybody individually wanted to win it and down the stretch we just kind of fell apart a little bit."
Chicago ended Game 1 on a 9-3 surge started by Delle Donne’s 3-pointer with 2:52 left but broke down defensively Saturday, allowing the Fever to shoot 59.4 percent in the second half.
”Let’s face it. You’re not going to win giving up 89 in the playoffs,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. ”You have to give yourself a chance on the defensive end.”
Chatman has less concerns on offense despite Delle Donne not in top form. Vandersloot and Quigley are averaging 18.0 points each for the series, with the latter delivering 22 off the bench in Game 1 and Vandersloot scoring 19 on 8 of 11 shooting Saturday.
Quigley also came through when these teams met in last year’s East finals, scoring 24 points as the Sky overcame a back injury to Delle Donne to record a 75-62 road win in Game 3.
The Fever got a huge lift from its bench as well on Saturday, with Shavonte Zellous contributing 16 points and eight assists while hitting 6 of 9 shots.
”When she’s playing like that, nobody can stop us," Catchings said.
Indiana may need to improve from the perimeter to avoid a second straight playoff ousting, however. The Fever, the league’s leaders in 3-point percentage during the regular season, were 1 of 16 from beyond the arc Saturday after going 6 of 21 in Game 1.