The WNBA Champion Chicago Sky Boomed The Mercury Off The Court
5:57 PM EDT on October 17, 2021
In what would turn out to be the final minutes of the WNBA season, the Chicago Sky's best players came up huge. As soon as they had no more margin for error, the Sky manufactured clutch bucket after clutch bucket to clinch the franchise's first-ever WNBA title. In front of a rowdy home crowd on Sunday afternoon, holding a 2-1 series lead, the Sky dug themselves out of a hole with a 26-11 fourth quarter that capitalized on every Phoenix Mercury mistake and gave them an 80-74 win.
The final two-and-a-half minutes, which began with the Sky down 72-67, have to constitute one of the most exhilarating momentum swings in recent basketball history, as Chicago made a series of incredible plays while the Mercury could do nothing to stop them. Phoenix's lead was as large as 14 in the second half, but they sputtered to an abrupt halt at the worst time, shooting 0-for-6 from the field in that final stretch and going a full four minutes without scoring, Meanwhile, the Sky went 5-for-5, with baskets made by four different players.
The two most memorable of those makes came from players with contrasting careers but unseverable connections to the city of Chicago. Naperville's own Candace Parker, who spent her entire WNBA career in Los Angeles before becoming the Sky's marquee free agent signing ahead of this season, nailed an explosive three-pointer with two minutes to go to tie the game. This shot marked the first time the Mercury did not have the lead in the entire second half.
And after Diana Taurasi, as she does, hit two free throws to bring the Mercury back to within two in the game's final minute, it was Courtney Vandersloot who came up huge on a must-score possession that iced the game. The point guard who was drafted by the Sky all the way back in 2011 cemented her legacy with this team by way of a magical do-it-all drive, stop, and fade.
There was a brief stretch before all of this where everything got very sloppy, with several turnovers and missed layups on both ends, and for a moment it looked as though Game 4 would be decided by which team screwed up just a little bit less. Luckily, the championship wasn't awarded that way. While the Mercury could not escape their funk, a transcendent, world-beating Sky emerged to definitively prove their superiority and leave the crowd in awe of their ability to close out the biggest game in this team's history. They showed without a doubt that they deserved the title. What a redemption arc.