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2021 WNBA Playoffs — Candace Parker plays hometown hero as the Chicago Sky head to WNBA Finals


The Chicago Sky are WNBA Finals bound!

They defeated the Connecticut Sun 79-69 in Game 4 of the semifinals Wednesday night at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, winning the series 3-1. After the series was tied 1-1 after Game 2, the Sky won two straight to overcome the No. 1 seeded Sun.

Chicago started out fast in Game 4, jumping out to a 13-4 lead early in the first. They never looked back after that, exerting their dominance over a shorthanded Connecticut squad. Candace Parker did it all for the Sky, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds, eight assists along with two blocks and two steals.

This is Chicago’s second time making the WNBA Finals with a record of .500 or worse, having done so in 2014, per ESPN’s Stats and Information. Only two other teams in league history (2013 Atlanta Dream and 2004 Sun) have matched the feat.

The Wintrust Arena was electric throughout the game, and there were many big-names in attendance to watch the Sky punch their ticket to the Finals. Hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper was present for the contest, making good on his promise after saying he would come watch Game 4 in-person after the team’s Game 3 victory.

The Chicago Blackhawks also shouted out the Sky pregame, wishing them luck in their series-clinching Game 4 matchup.

The Blackhawks weren’t the only Chicago team showing support. Coby White and Patrick Williams of the Chicago Bulls were also present for the playoff contest and had front-row seats. Not to mention some staff members of the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League showed up as well.

Even Bulls legend and NBA Champion Scottie Pippen came out to support the Sky.

Courtney Vandersloot was on fire to start the game, pouring in 13 points in the first quarter. She was a marksman from three-point land as well, making all three of her attempts in the first ten minutes. She finished the contest with 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

The Sun fought back after the initial punch from the Sky, cutting the lead to six after the first. In the second, Chicago’s offense continued to operate like a well-oiled machine, with Parker and Kahleah Copper leading the way with their fast break attack.

Chicago kept the pressure on in the second, widening their lead against Connecticut. They led the Sun 54-41 at the half, mainly because of their impressive three-point shooting. As a team, the Sky shot 61.5 percent from deep, making it rain on Jonquel Jones and company.

The third quarter was the Kahleah Cooper show, as she took over the Sky’s offense. She ran the floor, made some tough shots, and everyone was hyped about the Philadelphia-born player’s exceptional performance — finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists. South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, who’s also a Philly native, made sure to remind the Twitterverse where Copper is from.

The Sun showed some resilience, however, finding a way to respond to every attack the Sky threw at them. But turnovers and stifling defense by the Sky kept them behind on the scoreboard. Chicago dashed their hopes in the fourth quarter, as Parker played the role of closer, shutting the door on Connecticut’s season.

The Sky reaching the Finals is largely thanks to the pivotal offseason acquisition of Parker. Chicago was already a formidable team before her arrival, as Vandersloot, Diamond DeShields and Allie Quigley were stars in their own right. They and the Sky clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 12-10 record in 2020, but fell in the first round of the postseason that year.

After the early playoff exit, head coach James Wade knew the team needed championship experience to get to the next level, and Parker fitted that need perfectly.

“She’s the type of talent and person where she has expectations. Every year, the team she’s on, you automatically consider her team a championship contender,” Wade said per the Daily Herald. “Once we felt there could be an opening (for Parker), we went at it 100 percent.”

Parker left the Los Angeles Sparks — the team she’s been with her entire WNBA career, to join the Sky. Having grown up in Naperville, Illinois (an hour southwest of Chicago), the 35-year-old forward wanted to return home so she could play in front of family, friends and help the Sky obtain their first-ever championship.

“Chicago is where my family raised me; where I first learned the game of basketball; and where I first fell in love with this orange ball,” Parker said this offseason when she signed with the Sky, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Parker’s first season in Chicago wasn’t easy, as she suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the season opener. She missed eight straight games, and the Sky went 1-7 during that stretch. She returned on June 9th, and the team went 14-9 the rest of the way.

Parker made it known that she wanted to bring her hometown team a championship, and she is four wins away from making that dream a reality.



Source link: https://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/32351313/2021-wnba-playoffs-candace-parker-plays-hometown-hero-chicago-sky-head-wnba-finals
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