Editor’s note: John W. Davis and Owen Pence love live tweeting WNBA games. So the Winsidr.com reporters decided to message each other during the Chicago Sky’s 96-78 victory over the LA Sparks. The following is our in-game analysis of what went right for the Sky and what went wrong for the Sparks.
John W. Davis: The Los Angeles Sparks vs. Chicago Sky is a potential 2020 WNBA Championship matchup. Per usual, I think the Big 3 of Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, and Nneka Ogwumike will be key for the Sparks.
Owen Pence: With Stefanie Dolson out, I’m intrigued to see how Cheyenne Parker and Azurá Stevens handle LA’s frontcourt. I’m high on that duo’s defensive potential but it’s asking a lot of them to keep up with Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker for a full 40. I’m looking for Gabby Williams to have a big impact off the bench.
JWD: The Sparks started the first quarter extremely slow energy-wise. I know the game began at 9 pm EST but they will have to get used to playing late night games in the Wubble. Chelsea Gray is great in transition but she’s not a one-woman fast break.
OP: Meanwhile, the Sky look incredibly energized! They’re playing quite small with Gabby Williams in early off the bench at power forward and it’s led to fantastic spacing. Also, Kahleah Copper has looked so good in her first five quarters of the season, and Chicago has needed it with Diamond DeShields still not at 100 percent.
1ST Q: Sky 19. Sparks 14.
JWD: I like how the Sparks responded to being down big early by putting Candace Parker back in the game. Derek Fisher paired Parker with Seimone Augustus so the game did would not get out of hand. I’m also paying close attention to the synergy between Brittney Sykes and Augustus off the bench. I think that’s a dynamic duo that uplifts the Sparks during a lull in energy.
OP: Derek Fisher must have said something because LA’s defensive energy has ratcheted up considerably and the Sky are struggling to generate good looks in 24 seconds. Cheyenne Parker and Azurá Stevens are going to have to play big minutes tonight and already they’re having serious trouble in the full court defending Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Sykes is a serious problem. I love her game.
JWD: I’m really enjoying the expansion of Azurá Stevens’ game. She’s going to be trouble in the wubble if she continues to believe in her outside shot.
OP: Me too! She makes such a big impact on both ends. Her ability to stretch the floor while sometimes playing the 5 makes her incredibly valuable for the Sky.
JWD: It’s nice to see Candace Parker, the OG stretch 5, pushing the ball for the Sparks. Even with a great point guard like Gray, enjoys switching off duties with CP3.
OP: I’m so happy Candace Parker is back to looking like herself on the court. The Chicago Sky are currently not so happy Candace Parker is back to looking like herself on the court.
Diamond DeShields took a nasty spill, as if she needed more aches and pains to worry about. We’ll have to keep an eye on her minutes as this game progresses.
JWD: I thought Diamond had a few explosive plays off the bench in the first half for Sky.
OP: She definitely looked better than she did on Sunday. That reverse layup was really sweet.
Cheyenne Parker hits a three assisted by Courtney Vandersloot, proving Stevens isn’t the only one who can be called a stretch 5 for the Sky in this game! And of course, Chicago’s missing its third stretch 5 in Dolson.
JWD: I’m continually impressed with Cheyenne Parker’s effort. She does not back down, even against Candace Parker.
OP: Same. She’s one of the most under-appreciated players in the W.
JWD: Wow. Gabby Williams is a shooter now.
HALFTIME: Sky 40. Sparks 36.
JWD: What are your impressions of the Sky’s first 20 minutes against the Sparks?
OP: My biggest takeaway is definitely that this version of Gabby Williams changes everything for Chicago. Her shooting stroke looks fantastic so far this season and her ability to slide from 1-to-4 was always huge. Now James Wade has so many lineup combinations he can use without having to worry about sacrificing any spacing. I also cannot overstate enough how vital Kahleah Copper’s energy is to this bunch.
JWD: In past performances, the Sparks have proven they are a great third quarter team. If I’m Derek Fisher, I’m going to find a way to play Brittney Sykes more. She’s providing unmatched energy and effort. Her defense will be key in the second half.
I also think Seimone Augustus deserves a chance to affect the final outcome as well.
OP: I think Chicago’s biggest hope is that Sykes does not play more in this second half. She was a big headache for the Sky in half number one. I especially enjoyed in the second quarter when she shut down Courtney Vandersloot on one end and then came back and immediately scored a bucket on the other.
JWD: I must say Copper can hoop and I’m eager to see what she can do playing alongside Diamond DeShields later this season.
OP: Wow. An incredible finish by Copper off the glass. She looks wonderfully confident this year and it’s helped the Sky have some extremely entertaining stretches. Copper and Williams are the biggest positive surprises of this team’s first six quarters and change.
JWD: This is how you beat the LA Sparks. You win the third quarter.
OP: We just had an absolutely classic Courtney Vandersloot basket. She jumped and was going to pass to Parker until the very last moment when she changed her mind in the air and hit the ten-footer.
Then her spouse gets hot and scores five straight. This team has so many weapons.
JWD: There’s a reason James Wade believes Vandersloot is the best point guard in the world.
OP: Though I absolutely love Chelsea Gray, Vandersloot is getting the best of her so far tonight.
3RD QUARTER: Sky 66. Sparks 55.
JWD: The Sparks were down by as many as 20 points in the third quarter. I will defer to you for how the Sky were able to outscore the Sparks 26-19 in the third?
OP: Vandersloot and Quigley! Where we saw some of the role players take the reins in the first half, we saw two of Chicago’s main stars flaunt their talent in the third. I continue to be struck by how much these Sky players are out there for each other, sharing the rock and communicating well on both ends.
Wow. Copper with arguably the play of the game on an incredible and-one. Then immediately gets another lay-up. Chill, Kahleah! I can’t keep up!
JWD: I guess those TikTok dance routines are working on and off the court for the Sky.
I think the Sparks are LA is missing the spark provided by rookie point guard Te’a Cooper. She’s out with a non-COVID related illness. But the Sky have played so well, I don’t think anyone Spark would have turned the tide in this game.
OP: I was disappointed to see Cooper was sitting out. I really enjoyed what she brought in the opener against Phoenix.
JWD: Stevens for 3. Again. The Sparks should be not satisfied with this effort.
OP: Definitely not what I was expecting from them in this potential Finals preview. Meanwhile an absolutely complete performance from Chicago. Stevens is just adding insult to injury in this fourth quarter hitting three after three.
JWD: Do you think it’s possible the Sky are better off starting Stevens and Parker rather than Stevens and Dolson?
OP: I don’t want to overreact to one game, but I definitely think that may be the case. Chicago’s defensive ceiling is higher with those two and the offense remains dynamic.
Parker and Stevens also seem to be developing some nice chemistry in the hi-low game.
Plus, Stefanie Dolson coming off the bench with (eventually) Kahleah Copper and Gabby Williams would be so unfair.
JWD: I think the Sky’s performance against the Sparks means Dolson should take her time coming back off injury. I don’t think you can ever have too much firepower off the bench.
FINAL SCORE: 96 Sky. Sparks 78.
JWD: My final thoughts are this game proves there will be peaks and valleys in the Wubble for the Sparks. If they played this game again next week, I would expect a much better effort.
I’ll give you the final word since the Sky took care of business against the Sparks.
OP: Look, the Sky won’t shoot 44 percent from downtown every game, but this was still a ridiculously impressive effort from them. Wade pointed to Chicago’s 25 assists on 37 made baskets as a key and I’d have to agree. The Sky stayed patient and constantly looked for the open teammate. Vandersloot didn’t turn the ball over once and accounted for 10 of those assists. The offensive potential this team has is bonkers. They did this without Dolson and a not 100 percent DeShields!!!
Meanwhile, Wade said the team worked a bunch on defensive schemes Monday in preparation for Los Angeles and boy did it show tonight. Stevens and Cheyenne Parker did a remarkable job holding Ogwumike to 13 points, 3 boards, and Candace Parker to 8 points. The energy was there from start to finish.
I realize it was just a dud for the Sparks, but this game proved that Chicago can absolutely win the 2020 WNBA Finals.