Sky’s Game 1 loss spoils party for Fowles, Delle Donne
BY SARAH TROTTO For Sun-Times Media September 20, 2013 11:28PM
The Fever’s Tamika Catchings (center) is pressured by Sylvia Fowles (left) and Elena Delle Donne. | Nam Y. Huh/AP
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:16AM
The day began pleasantly enough.
About an hour before its first-ever playoff game, the Sky revealed that Elena Delle Donne was unanimously voted WNBA rookie of the year and Sylvia Fowles was defensive player of the year.
Then the game started.
The top-seeded Sky was unable to slow the fourth-seeded, defending-champion Indiana Fever in an 85-72 loss in Game 1 of the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals. The Fever shot 10-for-16 from three-point range in its highest-scoring effort of the season.
The Fever (17-18) shot 50.8 percent from the field to the Sky’s 41.4 percent after averaging 70.8 points and shooting a league-worst 39.3 percent in the regular season.
‘‘They had a bunch of uncontested shots,’’ Sky forward Swin Cash said. ‘‘We have to do a better job defensively.’’
Fever coach Lin Dunn credited her team’s playoff experience, which includes nine consecutive postseasons.
‘‘Chicago is a very, very good team,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘They’ve got the rookie of the year, the defensive player of the year. I thought they had the WNBA MVP, so I was kind of stunned Fowles or Delle Donne didn’t get the MVP. The missing link is playoff experience, and that’s what they’re getting this year, and it’s going to be so good for them for the future.’’
Sky coach Pokey Chatman said she didn’t sense jitters.
‘‘We were really excited to play in our first playoff game,’’ said Delle Donne, who scored 16 of her team-high 20 points before halftime. ‘‘I didn’t feel jitters myself. We have great leaders on this team who keep our heads on straight.’’
The Sky (24-11) never led by more than four, at 4-0, and last led at 9-6 before the Fever went on a 19-7 run. The Sky cut it to 25-22, but the Fever went on a 12-4 run to open the second quarter, leading by as much as 19.
‘‘I thought there was a disconnect what we needed to do as far as our game plan and our communication with it,’’ said Cash, who won the league’s sportsmanship award. ‘‘We control that, and we can get better at that. We have to get better at it.
‘‘I have full confidence in our ability to refocus and do what we need to do.’’
Epiphanny Prince scored 19 points for the Sky. Fowles had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Fever, which won three of four regular-season games against the Sky, got a team-high 20 points from Shavonte Zellous. Karima Christmas added a career-high 16. Former Stevenson High star Tamika Catchings had 11.
The Sky must win Game 2 on Sunday in Indianapolis to extend its postseason.
‘‘We had a terrible job on the defensive end,’’ Cash said. ‘‘That needs to change.’’