Vandersloot leads Sky past Dream 80-77
ATLANTA (AP) Courtney Vandersloot hit the game-winning jumper from the top of the key with 20 seconds left to lead the Sky to an 80-77 win over the Dream in the first game of their WNBA playoff series.
Chicago is the No. 4 seed in the East, and Atlanta is No. 1, but the Sky didn't look like underdogs while limiting the Dream's fast break to two points.
''We call the first five seconds `quick strike,' and they're the best team in the league,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatmon said. ''Part of that is when we shoot 47 percent, that gives us two seconds to get back on defense.''
When the Sky are healthy, they're pretty good.
Elena Delle Donne scored 21 points, Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and 14 rebounds, Epiphanny Prince scored 14 points and Vandersloot went for 13 points and seven assists.
Vandersloot missed 17 games this season with an MCL knee sprain, Fowles missed the first 13 after hip surgery, and Delle Donne (21 points) missed 17 games with Lyme disease.
Chicago was at its best late in the first half while closing a 13-2 run to pull within 37-36 at intermission.
Trailing 35-23 after Atlanta forward Sancho Lyttle connected on an 18-foot jumper with 4:24 left in the second quarter, the Sky gathered themselves.
''We had 10 deflections in that quarter, and when we get deflections, we're a phenomenal team,'' said Delle Donne, who scored all of her points over the first three periods. ''I really feel like we slowed down, calmed down and executed. We were a little crazy at first.''
That Lyttle basket was a rare offensive highlight for her.
She was 3 for 15 in the game, and fellow Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry went 8 for 22 while scoring 24 points even with a late burst where her seven consecutive points gave the Dream a 77-75 lead on her jumper with 1:40 left.
Atlanta, which has fallen in the WNBA Finals in three of the past four seasons, was careless after building its 12-point lead in the second quarter.
The Sky ran out nearly of the final 20 seconds in the first half before Prince hit a 3-pointer with less than one second in a key sequence.
''Complacency,'' Dream coach Michael Cooper said when asked about his team missing seven of its final eight shots in the first half. ''The regular season and the playoffs are different. Shot selection, and value of the basketball are important. I thought we got caught up and took quick shots.''
Chicago led 75-70 before the two-time WNBA scoring champion hit a pair of free throws, then a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75. She added a jumper for a 77-75 lead.
The game winner came on a second-chance of sorts, as the possession began after officials reviewed a loose ball scramble under Atlanta's basket and called for a jump ball.
Fowles won the tip over Atlanta center Erika de Souza with 42 seconds left, and the game tied at 77.
Vandersloot worked her way from the right wing into the lane before stopping and popping from 18 feet for the game winning shot. That gave Chicago a 79-77 lead.
Atlanta rookie guard Shoni Schimmel, the MVP of the WNBA All-Star game, was defending Vandersloot at the time. She was screened off the eventual shot.
Cooper said the Dream won't go lightly Sunday.
''I was always told by a former coach of mine, Pat Riley, that championships are won on the road,'' said the former L.A. Lakers guard. ''I think the pressure now switches to them to close us out Sunday so we're going to go there and give them a good fight, and try to get this (back) to Atlanta.''