Guru's WNBA Report: Chicago Storms Seattle With Fourth Quarter Rally
By Mel Greenberg
The crusading Chicago Sky used a deluge of shots in the fourth quarter Thursday night in the only game on the WNBA schedule to erase a 16-point second-half deficit to rally and beat the host Seattle Storm 79-66 in the second of the two East-West matchups between the teams.
The Storm won the previous game in Chicago.
The Sky's 32-6 wipeout in the final period triggered by former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince was appropriately a key win in Key Arena for the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago team that was without rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne, who could be sidelined for as much two weeks with a foot sprain the Delaware all-American suffered during Tuesday night's narrow loss in Los Angeles to the rivitalized Sparks when someone stepped on her.
Ironically, Delle Donne, who might have been a Seattle player had she opted to leave college last season when her enrollment class at Delaware graduated, did not play in the first Seattle game either.
That was one of two Delle Donne missed recovering from a concussion suffered in the third quarter of Chicago's final game before the All-Star break, which was played in Washington, where the Sky blew a 14-point lead to the Mystics.
Because of the injury Delle Donne was unable to play in the All-Star game hosted by the Connecticut Sun after becoming the first rookie to be the overall vote recipient by the fans who chose the starters.
When WNBA coaches paraded through Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center during Delle Donne's junior and senior seasons, they often referred to her as a young Lauren Jackson, the Australian with All-Star stature on Seattle who is one of the best of the best in the WNBA.
So while there was much anticipation toward a matchup between Jackson, a former overall No. 1 pick, and Delle Donne, the overall No. 2 in April's draft, the confrontation would have been postponed even if Delle Donne was healthy because Jackson is sitting out this season to recover from a previous injury.
Former Connecticut star Sue Bird on Seattle is also doing likewise, absences which seemed to doom the Storm's playoff hopes but coach Brian Agler has the squad very much in the running, with the current 10-13 record helped in part elsewhere in the West because fifth place San Antonio at 8-15 behind the Storm also has season-long absences due to injuries to Sophia Young and Becky Hammon.
Thursday's win in a sense cancels the Washington loss when the shoe was on the other foot for the Sky, though if Chicago loses out first in the East by a game or tiebreak Sky coach Pokey Chatman won't buy this notion.
But the comeback did many things for Chicago, which has not been to playoffs in seven previous attempts since joining the WNBA in 2006.
The Sky missed by a game to New York last season though Chicago struck it rich in the lottery landing the No. 2 position to be able to pick Delle Donne behind Baylor star Brittney Griner, who was taken by the Phoenix Mercury.
Chicago's win over Seattle makes them 16-8, matching the best win total in franchise history achieved just once before.
It also opened a three-game lead over the reeling Atlanta Dream, who at 11-9 have lost seven of their last eight due to injuries and a tough July on the road.
The Chicago triumph furthermore reduced the Sky's magic number to make the playoffs to five, which could drop more over the next several days due to the Eastern Conference collisions by other teams just ahead.
Chicago, which is a leading 10-4 in Eastern Conference games, for its part hosts Connecticut Sunday and then visits Washington Tuesday night.
The magic number to finish first is 10 since just making the playoffs is no longer the Sky mantra of previous seasons.
If Thursday was relatively quiet on the WNBA slate, an intriguing storyline in the East is budding for Friday's card.
Connecticut in last place meets Atlanta for the second straight night, this time in Georgia trying for a two-game sweep for the week on the Dream, especially because the Sun need to mount a run and let the others pick each other apart to get to at least the fourth and final playoff spot.
Passing the New York Liberty alone won't do the trick.
Meanwhile New York is hosting Washington already holding two wins on the Mystics with the two teams a half-game apart in the 4th-5th playoffs or lottery slots.
Out West, the WNBA defending champion Indiana Fever, which has suffered the same injury decimations as others, including Connecticut, is at Los Angeles.
Now, should Atlanta lose to Connecticut, Washington to New York, and Indiana to Los Angeles the five teams in the East behind Chicago wouldn't all be tied because of different number games played by each to date.
However, they would each have 11 wins.
The Guru will be at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. for the Wasington-New York showdown, with Washington looking to atone for its recent 14-point meltdown in the fourth quarter of last week's visit, while the Liberty will be trying to create momentum off Sunday's upset win in Atlanta after being handle at home the previous afternoon by Los Angeles.
Just keep those seatbelts fastened because the bumpy ride will continue down to the wire.
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