We have just regained the ability to speak after Dearica Hamby’s stunning early buzzer-beater to send the Aces to the Semifinals. I mean check out this amazing view of Hamby’s Heave.
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 15, 2019
The Aces will take on the Mystics in the Semifinals and if they win that series, expect this shot to become even more legendary. A lot of other things happened in the second round, such as, the Sparks also moving on to the next round. We need to take a second to react to all of it (mostly the shot because WHAT?!?!) before the Semifinals start on Tuesday.
When Chicago had the game in hand
In these moments, we often forget what happened before the moment. Let’s not do that this time around because the whole ending sequence of the Chicago-Las Vegas was bonkers. It deserves a deeper look. Here’s the end of the game so you can see what I’m talking about.
With about a minute left in 4th quarter, the Aces held a 90-89 lead after the teams traded runs for most of the game. The Aces smartly went to Liz Cambage off the pick-and-roll. Cambage had rampaged through the Sky’s defense for 23 points and 17 rebounds. But then, Stefanie Dolson dug deep, moved her feet, and came up huge with a massive block of Lizzy. It was a truly unexpected and great moment for Dolson, who has had issues with Cambage this season.
On offense, Dolson then got ball off the short roll from Courtney Vandersloot. Dolson whipped the ball like Vandersloot would have to a wide open Astou Ndour in the corner. Ndour nailed the corner three to put the Sky up 92-89. At this point, I envisioned writing about how Ndour’s presence made all the difference in both of Chicago’s playoff wins. She put up 16 points and 9 rebounds in their win against Phoenix. Along with the go-ahead shot, she had 17 points and 8 rebounds against the best frontcourt in the WNBA in this game.
On the next possession, A’ja Wilson got the ball curling off a screen with Ndour trailing. The Sky’s center got back in front of Wilson as A’ja stepped into the paint, but then slipped. Wilson, inexplicably, did not take an open 10-footer as Astou got up to contest.
Then, Courtney Vandersloot made the type of play that wins playoff games. As Wilson started to drive past Ndour, Sloot poke the ball out of Wilson’s hands from behind. The ball bounced off Wilson’s legs and out of bounds. At this point, Vandersloot is the hero. She had seven points and 12 assists while turning the ball over just once. The point guard, who set the record for assists in a single year this season, was about to take another step forward in her career and get back to the WNBA semifinal round.
Hamby’s Heave (or the Miracle by Mistake?)
Things can change in an instant, ladies and gentlemen. This game was a perfect example. On the following inbound, Vandersloot got the ball with about 13.5 seconds left. She dribbled into the backcourt to waste time and juked out Kelsey Plum, who sprinted to get to her.
Then, it happened. Vandersloot, the best passing point guard in the league, saw an open Diamond DeShields on the sideline and saw an opportunity to seal the game. Unfortunately, Dearica Hamby jumped the pass like a free safety. You can’t blame Vandersloot for the pass in the moment to be honest. DeShields was jumping up and down calling for the ball as Sloot was frantically running around. Sure, she could have exhibited more awareness and held on to the ball. But that’s a tough ask in such a pressure situation. I don’t think that will comfort Vandersloot too much, though.
Hamby gets the steal with 8.6 seconds left. The Aces have a timeout. The Aces have 8.6 seconds left to tie the game, an eternity in basketball terms. HAMBY LOOKED UP AT THE CLOCK, Y’ALL. She must have misread it or just had an insane idea to shot the ball. But she buried it.
The shot was immediately named “Hamby’s Heave,” which is an admittedly good name. But I like “The Miracle by Mistake” because it took not only the mistake of Hamby failing to realize the time but a bunch of other mistakes to happen. Mainly, Vandersloot’s silly turnover and the refs failing to review the call to see if Hamby stepped out. (And it kind of looks like she did step out…yikes)
Nonetheless, the Sky still had one more shot to try and win it. The final shot went to Astou Ndour in the corner for three. Even though she was open, Ndour couldn’t get recapture the magic to win. It sailed wide and the Aces moved on and we’ll be writing about them very soon.
Chicago will be fine
As heartbreaking as this loss is, the Sky took a huge step forward in 2019. The team broke through for a playoff berth for the first time since 2016. Diamond DeShields continued to get better and show that she’s a star in this league. She also prove that she is capable of taking over in the playoffs with back-to-back 20-plus points performances.
Chicago’s bigs also showed some real grit and skill against Las Vegas. They all fouled the Aces’ frontcourt a lot, but still made it as uncomfortable for them as possible. They did a pretty good job on Wilson as well. Offensively, Dolson, Ndour, and Cheyenne Parker all showed the ability to stretch the floor and play the type of basketball that James Wade likes. They’ll be back next year and I’m sure they won’t forget this loss.
Los Angeles moving on
The Sparks’ win against the Storm felt like it was weeks ago. In a game that was closer than the final score, LA beat Seattle 92-68. Seattle fought back every time that the Sparks went on a run. The Storm got within one point with 3:11 left in the 3rd quarter. But then the Sparks ended the game on a 35-13 run to seal it.
Chelsea Gray continued to do Chelsea Gray-things. She had 21 points and 8 assists in a consistent effort. Candace Parker (11 points/10 rebounds) and Nneka Ogwumike (17/6) had excellent games as well. Additionally, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Alana Beard did an amazing job locking up Jordin Canada. Overall, the Sparks had a great performance especially on defense. They will need to be better on the boards and get Riquna Williams going against Connecticut. But that’s for a different day.
Seattle finding something special
At the end of the day, the Storm just went dead on offense. It is not the first time, or the second time, or the 13th time that Seattle’s offense disappeared in 2019. This was just the worst possible timing for the Storm to forget how to score. 13 points over the last 13:11 minutes of the game ain’t going to cut it, especially in the Playoffs.
However, Seattle walks away from the 2019 season with plenty to be happy about. Natasha Howard took a huge step forward offensively as the primary option. She did so while winning Defensive Player of the Year, which I think qualifies as a great season. Alysha Clark became a defensive cornerstone for the franchise as a second-team All-Defense selection. Jordin Canada showed that she can replace Sue Bird in the long run.
Most importantly, Seattle showed grittiness throughout the season. They battled injuries, Coach Hughes’s cancer scare, bad offensive stretches, and having no true home arena. Yet, they made it to the second round of the playoffs and grew as a team. The Storm will be competing for championships yearly with Breanna Stewart and Bird returning.
The Semifinals start on Tuesday and you can follow all of our coverage of it with our nifty Playoff Hub.