CHICAGO With their season on the line, the Chicago Sky returned to their old stomping grounds, the UIC Pavilion, on Friday night for Game 3 of the 2014 WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile. Despite 23 points from Elena Delle Donne, the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Chicago Sky 87-82 to win their third WNBA Championship.
With Mercury center Brittney Griner sidelined ( eye ) the Sky took advantage of the open lane, scoring 18 of their 22 first quarter points in the paint and the remaining four from the free throw line. The Mercury could not find a match for Chicago's one-two punch, led by Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne who combined for 16 points in the first quarter. The teams were deadlocked at 22 after the first ten minutes of action.
To start the second quarter, the Sky continued to dominate the paint scoring four quick points inside to force Phoenix's defense to collapse. Allie Quigley led the Sky with seven points in the quarter but a late layup by Mistie Bass gave Phoenix a 45-43 lead at the half. Courtney Vandersloot set a WNBA Finals record with eight assists in the first half.
Chicago shot 46.7% from the field in the third quarter to regain the lead. With an assist at the three-minute mark in the third quarter, Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot gained her 11thassist, tying a WNBA Finals record. A step-back jumper from Quigley sparked a 9-2 run over the final two minutes to give the Sky a 63-61 lead at the end of the third.
Phoenix forced two shot clock violations in the midst of a 9-4 run that gave the Mercury a 72-67 lead with 5:51 lead in the fourth quarter. But the Sky battled back with a 9-5 run of their own to cut the Mercury lead to one point with less than three minutes remaining. After a gritty defensive stop, Allie Quigley raced down court and nailed a pull-up jumper with less than 35 seconds left to tie the game at 82. Following a Phoenix timeout Diana Taurasi connected on a three-point play. Chicago had a chance to tie, but an three point attempt by Delle Donne in the closing seconds fell short allowing the Mercury to escape with the 87-82 victory. Delle Donne finished the game with 23 points and five rebounds while Fowles added 20 points and eight rebounds.
"Just the maturity that our team has shown is incredible and something that we will take into next season," said Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne. "Everybody talks about our age, but the adversity that this team was able to face and get through it is something that you don't see. We've matured so much and I'm extremely proud of the group."
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Chicago Sky 82, Phoenix Mercury 87
- Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot had a record-breaking performance in Game 3, setting a WNBA Finals record with eight assists in the first half, and tying the WNBA Finals record for most assists in a game with 11.
- Chicago held Phoenix to just 41.1% shooting in the second half, after the Mercury hit on 57.1% of their shots in the first half. Both teams shot the ball well in Game Three, with Phoenix shooting 49.3% and Chicago shot 47.1%.
- Elena Delle Donne scored 23 points in Game 3, outmatching her previous Finals-high of 22 points in Game 2. Delle Donne also grabbed five rebounds.
- Sylvia Fowles took advantage of Brittney Griner's absence, scoring 20 points, including 14 in the first half. Fowles also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
- 2014 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Allie Quigley delivered 19 points, including 10 in the second half. Quigley also grabbed five rebounds.
- The Phoenix Mercury won their third WNBA Championship in franchise history ( previous 2007 and 2009 ).
- Diana Taurasi, the Finals MVP, scored 24 points in Game 3, including 14 points in the fourth quarter. Taurasi also recorded five assists.
- Candice Dupree scored 24 points and dished out a team-high six assists for Phoenix.
Chicago Sky Head Coach Pokey Chatman
Q: On the game.
Chatman: Congratulations to Phoenix. They had a great season and obviously a tremendous series. I want to start off by saying that I am proud of my team in terms of what they accomplished this year. Yes, it stings right now. We didn't have the showing that we wanted but I want to credit a team that when they had a man down, their All-Star players stepped up. I thought we went back and forth and there were some crucial times in there were we had opportunities to separate and they would come back with an and-one. Diana [Taurasi] would hit a big shot and that's what big time players do. We didn't give ourselves an opportunity and in that fourth quarter when we really needed to corral up our defense, we gave up 26 points. Again, congratulations to Phoenix and I'm really proud of this team
Q: How much did experience play a factor in this series?
Chatman: Experience is an amazing teacher. We talked about that last year when we had an early exit in the playoffs. I feel like we were able to garner a lot of experience through our adversity. We ran across a team that is a well-oiled machine. This was only their second game without a player but they have some players that have been there, done that, and been on this stage, so I think that it helped them at crucial times, maybe after a timeout when they needed a big bucket.
Q: On Candice Dupree.
Chatman: Candice is an All-Star. I coached her a couple years abroad; she was an All-Star in Russia. She has found All-Star status on an All-Star team. She is a tough guard in terms of she can play back to the basket, she has a mid-range game and there's not a whole lot of pressure on her to spread the floor because she gets some one-on-one matchups. She's been doing that for years and I think now that the way they have played their entire season, she is now really getting the recognition she deserves.
Q: Can playing this Phoenix team in the Finals bring value to your team in the future?
Chatman: It's huge. They're a great team and they have great players. It's not necessarily about a skill set because players are so different but it's about a mindset. It's a mentality, it's owning the moment, it's embracing the moment and yes we learned from everyone especially on this stage.
Chicago Sky Guard/Forward Elena Delle Donne and Center Sylvia Fowles
Q: How heartbreaking and emotional is this loss for your team?
Fowles: It's been a tough series. Of course the first two games we weren't what we wanted to be. We tried to take into consideration that we would be home in front of our crowd and just go out and play tough. Emotionally it sucks that we couldn't advance to a fourth game. But at the same time, I'm so proud of my teammates and where we came from to where we are now. I can only hang my head high, get better in the offseason, and come back and try and do it all over again.
Q: Is Phoenix a role model team that you aspire to be like?
Delle Donne: Yeah, of course. They're the champions and they had an amazing season. They set records, broke a bunch of records, even in the playoffs. They're a phenomenal team and you have to give them all the credit in the world. They have Diana and with Diana anything is possible with her. She can put them on her back whenever she needs it, and you have the rest of the team and they're all just a great group. They had a phenomenal season, so obviously you want to emulate the champions.
Q: Is there more motivation making your first Finals and being swept than making the first round of the playoffs last year and being swept?
Fowles: I will say this emotion now is definitely bigger. We've grown so much this season as a unit and just sticking together through all the adversity just brought us together. This one made us want it more. I definitely would pick this over last year.
Delle Donne: Yeah, I would agree with that. Getting a taste of the Finals and how amazing the atmosphere is and what it's like, of course we want to get back and change the result.
Q: What will you take away from this season as you look forward to next season?
Delle Donne: Just the maturity that our team has shown is incredible and something that we will take into next season. Everybody talks about our age, but the adversity that this team was able to face and get through it is something that you don't see. Hopefully this group will stick together. Obviously there will be a lot of changes in the offseason, but this is a great group and we've matured so much and I'm extremely proud of the group.
Chicago Sky Point Guard Courtney Vandersloot
Q: On Diana Taurasi's MVP performance.
Vandersloot: Diana Taurasi knows how to win. She's won at every level that she's been at and she really showed that tonight. She brought her whole team on her back and carried it. She made incredible shots and that's the type of player that she is.
Q: On what the Sky can take from the loss.
Vandersloot: It's tough being on the losing end, but there is a lot of positive in it because we got all our team together at the end and look what we were able to do. Imagine if we were together from the start. That's what we would like to think, but it doesn't feel like it right now.
Chicago Sky Guard Allie Quigley
Q: On what the team can take from playing in the Finals going forward.
Quigley: I think that we can take a lot of good things away from this and know what it felt like to be here. It's good experience for all of us to reflect on what we can do individually and collectively to get back here.
Q: On the Phoenix Mercury.
Quigley: They are dangerous at every position. They have great players and they have a great team. The league is full of great players, but if you don't make a great team than it doesn't matter. They showed that they're the best team, period.
Q: Did you feel that Diana Taurasi was going to take the shot on the last possession?
Quigley: I think that we knew she would be a part of it, but she is smart too. She is going to make the pass if she can't shoot it. She made a really tough shot and that's what great players do.
Phoenix Mercury Sandy Brondello
Q: General thoughts on the game?
Brondello: Well, it's the kind of game I would expect in this third game. Obviously, not having Brittney Griner really changed how we played a little bit. They scored a lot of points in the paint tonight, but I thought Eva Kobryn, not having played so many minutes all season long, I thought she did a very good job. And look, Chicago showed what kind of team they are; they're very resilient. Obviously, Elena wasn't feeling the back as much as she had in those first two games and [Sylvia] Fowles, they were very dominant, and they made big shots. This is their home court, so this team is going to be around for a long time. But look, I'm just proud obviously to be coaching this team. It's been an unbelievable season. My first year in Phoenix, and it's one that I'll savor for the rest of my life, I'm sure.
Q: Can you describe the emotions going through your head in the final seconds?
Brondello: Well, I knew it was going to be a tight game, but I always had confidence that we would close out because that's what we've done all season long. There's a reason we're 29-5. We did have some close games, believe it or not, and we executed when it mattered and obviously we have the best player in the world, Diana Taurasi. And regardless what happens before, when you put the ball in her hand at crunch time, she makes it happen.
Q: What did this win mean to do it without Brittney Griner? What does that say about the depth and balance of this team?
Brondello: Well it means a lot; it really talks about their will to win. We didn't want to go to a Game 4. It shows the character of the players I have on this team, the belief that they have in the system, and the trust they have in each other. And I think that goes a long way to win in basketball, sometimes underestimated in a way, but chemistry helps win ball games and I think it did tonight.
Q: Can you expand on Diana [Taurasi]'s impact on the team throughout the playoffs and how did Diana's experience put you in a position to close it out?
Brondello: Diana Taurasi is just amazing. I keep talking about the best player in the world and it's because she does so many things to help the team. She's a great leader and she'll lead through action or she'll lead though constructive criticism or motivation. Whatever it takes, that's what she'll do.
Phoenix Mercury Guard Diana Taurasi and Forward Candice Dupree
Q: Some people are asking at this point if the Mercury is going to become the next WNBA dynasty. What would you say you have to do to take it to the next higher level?
Taurasi: This team has been just unbelievable all year. Every single day we come to work and it really is just fun. There are years where the last place you want to go into is the locker room. This year, I couldn't wait to get into the locker room, the shootaround, the practices, on the bus, on the plane. It's things like that that make this team so special, so obviously with what we achieved on the court, it probably won't happen again. So for tonight and for this whole year, I am just going to enjoy it, and really be thankful that I got to share this roll with the coaches and the players.
Q: Diana, how does this one compare to the two that you already won? Candice, how does this feel to win your first?
Dupree: It feels great. I wouldn't want to win it with any other group of players and any other group of coaches. Like Diana said, we had a lot of fun this year aside from the winning. The locker room is a great place to be with a lot of personalities and we just had a good time. I enjoyed the moment.
Taurasi: I never like to compare them because each of them is special in its own right. I said it in 2009 that we are going to be here a lot, we are going to have so many opportunities to win a championship. Five years went by and we didn't come close. Western Conference Finals, swept. Western Conference Finals, swept. One year we didn't make the playoffs. So we do finally get here and knowing we have to take full advantage of it, we have to enjoy it. Today with two minutes left, we enjoyed that. That pressure of not knowing if we were going to win, we enjoyed that. We came out on top today.
Q: You have the reputation of being a closer. What was going through your mind when you hit that baseline shot?
Taurasi: We drew that play up and I think we ran it a couple of times through the year. We were just trying to get the clock down and take the final shot. I turned the corner and Tamera Young went with Dupree, and once that happened, I just made a play and it went in.
Phoenix Mercury Guard Penny Taylor
Q: What does this championship mean to you?
Taylor: I've come through a lot of bad times. I know how happy my mom would be to see this and how proud she would be. I know how happy the Mercury fans are to live this with us. They are just as much a part of it as anyone in this locker room. It's been five years since I last won, so we had to break through that wall in Minnesota to get here. We fought really hard to win this one today.
Q: Why is this team so special?
Taylor: I get to play for Sandy Brondello. For me, I couldn't be happier. I've been lucky enough to be on this team with unselfish players and smart players and the way they play the game, I couldn't be happier.
Q: You and Diana are the true leaders. What does it mean for you to be one of the leaders and help win this title?
Taylor: I'm definitely the oldest and that's well and clear. But we have some amazing talent, but more than that we have heart and we play for each other. We all have our roles and everyone is just so unselfish.