Guru's WNBA Roundup: No Delle Donne No Problem as Chicago Erases Conecticut 25-Point Lead
By Mel Greenberg
Big deficit -- again. No. Elena-again. No problem-again.
That was the way it went in Chicago Sunday night, technically in the suburban town of Rosemont, where the Eastern-leading Sky tied a WNBA record by rallying from a 25-point deficit that existed late in the first half to to heap more indignities on the no-longer regular-season defending conference champion Connecticut Sun with an 89-78 triumph that completed a four--game sweep.
The comeback this time made the weekend rally from 16-down in the second half to win at Seattle the last time out seem like small potatoes.
Chicago (17-8) was able to main its 2.5 lead over second-place Atlanta (13-9), which put a crimp in the playoff hopes of the Washington Mystics 76-58 earlier in the afterrnoon in Georgia, though the muddle below the Dream is such that the other four teams fighting for two spots will probably have contest over the next month over who can do the best job backing into the postseason.
The Sky have now clinched their first .500 season for the first time since joining the WNBA as an expansion team in 2006. That can quickly change to first winning season by emerging victorious Tuesday night when they visit Washington (12-14).
The last visit to the nation's capital did not go so well in the final game before the All-Star break last month when leading rookie-of-the-year candidate Elena Delle Donne, the former Delaware All-American who was the second overall pick in April's draft, suffered a concussion in the third quarter and the Sky blew a 14-point lead.
Delle Donne, the first rookie to win the overall All-Star fan balloting to select the starters, went on to miss the next two games.
Now Chicago has found it can also do things when in deep trouble without its prized roookie, who has been sidelined in both recent wins with a mildly-injured left foot that got stepped on last Tuesday night during a narrow loss in Los Angeles to the Western Conference red-hot Sparks.
Connecticut, beset with injuries and other situations causing abscenes, was without veteran Kara Lawson, who is tending a family situation, and Allison Hightower, who had been as strong candidate for most improved player in the WNBA.
Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot is also a candidate for the award.
The Sky comeback tied previous WNBA-record rallies from 25-points down set by the former Detroit Shock, now in Tulsa, at home against Los Angeles on June 26, 2005, reversing a 35-10 score to a 79-73 win, while last season the then-defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at home on Sept. 7 came from a 50-25 deficit to win 97-93 in double overtime.
Washington several season ago set the record of coming from a 22-point halftime deficit to win 88-85 in overtime in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Sky coach Pokey Chatman said after Sunday's win that Delle Donne may play in Tuesday night's game, which if confirmed with enough leeway might send another crush of Delaware fans to the Verizon Center, which will delight the state of Maryland, which last month jacked up the tolls on bridges and tunnels on its roads in the Northeast corridor.
However, the Guru's pipeline hears from other quarters caution is being preached so Delle Donne is in good shape for the playoff run.
Speaking of the postseason, Chicago's rally also enabled the Sky, who have yet to make the playoffs in seven previous tries, to reduce their magic number to two over the fifth-place New York Liberty (10-15), which lost to the Minnesota Lynx, 88-57, in an East-West crossover game in Minneapolis.
The Liberty played without former Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter, who is struggling with foot problems, though first-year coach Bill Laimbeer is hopeful of getting his All-Star back in action when the Liberty travel to play Chicago on Friday.
Former UConn star Maya Moore had 28 points and hit six three-pointers for the Lynx (18-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win over New York iand stayed a half-game aheasd of Los Angeles in the West.
In the Sky win All-Star and Olympian Sylvia Fowles, who has had her way in the post with Connercticut, set a WNBA record with 20 points and 21 rebounds, the second time this season she has hit 20 or more in both categories in the same game.
Both efforts have come aagainst Connecticut.
Chicago owns the tie-break in already winning the season-series with New York if the two finish fourth and the best Connecticut (7-17) can do with Chicago is get a tie, but the Sky would get the nod off the season sweep.
Technically, Connecticut, on the way to what would be the worst record in combined franchise history as either the Orlando Miracle or current afilliation, is still alive for the playoffs, trailing the fourth-place and defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever (11-14) by 3.5 games.
But the reality says something else, especially after zipping to a 15-0 start in Chicago and building what used to be an insurmountable 43-18 lead by Connecticut, only to be outscored 62-35 in the second half.
First-year Sun coach Anne Donovan, the Hall of Famer and former Old Dominion great who has won Olympic gold medals as a player and coach, as well as a WNBA title when she was guiding Seattle apparently has not seen it all.
"... And 62 points in a half is pretty amazing." Donovan said. crediting Chicago's effort and expressing frustration at another poundimg, especially being in control in the first half.
The Sky closed out the win with a 25-5 run in the fourth quarter.
Former Rutgers standout Epiphanny Prince who keyed t he fourth-quarter rally in Seattle, had 21 points against Connecticut.
"We were fortunate," Chatman said, initially expressing dismay at the Sky's tough start. "But at least I can take some true basketball clips that were from blue-collar areas of the game: defense, deflections, rebounding, getting out in transittion -- that got us the win."
In Atlanta's win over Washington, which was coming off a tough triumph on the road against New York Friday night, former UConn star Tiffany Hayes tied a career high with 23 points after recently returned from surgery.
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