Sky vs. Sun Game 2: Urgent Candace Parker leads Chicago to victory with another stellar performance

CHICAGO — As time ticked down in the second quarter, Candace Parker caught the ball, dribbled into the corner and blasted a left-footed rebound pass through two defenders right into the path of Courtney Vandersloot. The veteran point guard converted a layup, extending the Chicago Sky’s lead to 19 and forcing a timeout from an exasperated Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller. The crowd inside the Wintrust Arena erupted, as DJ Cool’s classic song “Let Me Clear My Throat” blared from the speakers.

“Sometimes I get in trouble for squeezing the ball there and I get turnovers,” Parker said. “But [throwing those passes] it feels good. Really, honestly, this is serious, I’d rather throw a dime pass than get a bucket anytime soon. I think it’s very funny. The energy with the ball, the movement, the connection between two people. We pride ourselves on our assists, so it’s always fun for me to throw those passes.”

I felt, at that moment, that the game was over; indeed, it was. A late charge by Sun to make the final score respectable was too little, too late, as the Sky won 85-77 in Game 2 to tie their WNBA playoff semifinal series at 1-1.

After losing Game 1 at home for the second straight series, Sky was determined to bounce back and avoid traveling to Connecticut down 2-0 in this brief best-of-five series. Although this was not an elimination game, it might as well have been. The Sky are 4-0 in such games in the last two postseasons, and they stood out with their backs against the wall once again.

Leading the way, as she has since returning home to Chicago last season, Candace Parker had 22 points, four rebounds, four blocks and three assists on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. His numbers weren’t as historic as they were in Game 1, but that was because he only needed to play 25 minutes in the blowout. And even if the score on the box doesn’t say so, his performance in Game 2 was nearly as impressive, and perhaps more important given the circumstances.

“You see the end is closer than the beginning, and we’re in a situation where you see an opportunity to win,” Sky head coach James Wade said. “She wants to do everything in her power to get another championship. That’s where you see, I wouldn’t say desperation, but urgency. That urgency comes in the plays of not taking plays, being your best self at all times, and paying attention to your body on days off and putting a lot into your game and your craft. I think it’s a combination of all those things.”

Parker was everywhere on both sides of the ball, from the opening tip. Assisting on Sky’s first two baskets, he finished the first quarter with seven points, two rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, and ensured his team got off to a strong start. His leadership and sense of timing were just as important as the plays he was making.

However, those plays should not be ruled out. Along with the aforementioned pass to Vandersloot, there were a number of standout plays: a 3-and-one, a fade to Brionna Jones’s face, a big help-side block on Jonquel Jones that she sent to the former MVP to force a rotation.

“She’s had so many different great games,” said Emma Meesseman. “Even if she has less stats, she’s still doing a lot of great things on the court, like being a great leader. I don’t think there are enough words, I think it’s your job to find them, to describe what she’s been doing.” everywhere; defense, attack, off the pitch she’s been very vocal. I’m happy to play her in this series because going against her is no fun.”

Relentless, captivating, one-of-a-kind — hopefully those words are Meesseman-approved and do the job of describing Parker’s performance. The trick now for Parker and the Sky is to keep this level in Game 3.

“Let’s not take our foot off the pedal,” Parker said. “I think after a win is when we need to be even more focused and ready to play, focused and in the right mindset.”

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