Whether it was the sellout crowd in Wintrust Arena or the lions at the Art Institute draped in their attire, the Chicago Sky felt the presence of the city in a 86-50 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night at Wintrust Arena.
After securing Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, the Sky are one win from their first title.
The franchise has made only one prior appearance in the Finals — a three-game sweep by the Mercury in 2014. The Sky will have a chance to finish the series at home Sunday (2 p.m., ESPN).
“I really feel Chicago,” said James Wade, who became the Sky’s all-time leader for playoff wins for a coach. “The way they came out and supported us, you could feel the passion that they had. Hopefully we see the same thing on Sunday.”
The Mercury shot 25% from the field, setting a record for the lowest field-goal percentage in a WNBA Finals game. Diana Taurasi finished with five points on 1-for-10 shooting, the worst playoff performance of her career. Skyler Diggins-Smith, who was named to the All-WNBA first team earlier in the day, ended the night with seven points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The Sky’s 22-point halftime lead was the largest a team has had through two quarters in a Finals since 2014. Wade sat his starters in the fourth quarter with a 62-38 lead while the Mercury benched their starting five one minute into the quarter.
The Sky contained Brittney Griner by denying her open opportunities at the rim. In Game 2, she led the Mercury with 18 points in the paint but started 1-for-8 in Game 3. She was the only starter Friday to finish in double digits, scoring 16 points, but she struggled to match the Sky’s physicality on the defensive end.
“We could take the easy way out or we can really look at ourselves in the mirror and play with intent next game,” Taurasi said. “Obviously it would have been nice to make shots. The game of basketball is about putting the ball in the hoop, and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The Mercury once again had no answer for Kahleah Copper. Copper scored 20 first-half points and finished with 22. It was her fourth game of scoring 20-plus points this postseason.
Having drawn the assignment of guarding Taurasi, Copper has continued to show off her potential as a two-way star in the postseason and earned high praise from her teammates.
“It’s huge for her to have the game she had (offensively) and then be be tasked with defending Diana,” said Candace Parker, who finished with 13 points. “Sometimes those contributions on that end of the court get overlooked and we depend on her athleticism.”
The Mercury have had their backs against the wall throughout the playoffs, having played two single-elimination games and squeaking by the Las Vegas Aces in five games in the semifinals. They remained confident they could get back in the series.
“We are a better team than what we showed tonight,” Brondello said. “Their crowd got into it and they did what they needed to do, but we have been in this position before. We have to regroup, refocus and get better.”
The Sky have come a long way since finishing the regular season 16-16. Now 7-2 in the postseason, the team has peaked at the right time.
“That injury part of the season feels like another season ago,” Allie Quigley said. “When we finally got everyone healthy, this is what we saw our season looking like.”
The league announced earlier Friday that Courtney Vandersloot was named second-team All-WNBA. It was Vandersloot’s fifth All-WNBA selection and her third time being named to the second team (2015 and 2018). It was the fifth consecutive year Vandersloot led the league in assists per game.