Carolyn Swords had 11 points and a career-high nine rebounds to help the Sky (12-17) pull into a tie with New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining.
“Last time we played (Minnesota), I was staying at home so I couldn’t do anything to help the team,” said Prince, who missed eight games earlier this season due to a broken bone in her right foot. “I was just happy to be out there and help them win when we have such a close race with New York.”
Chicago, vying for the franchise’s first postseason berth, was without Olympic center Sylvia Fowles for the second straight game due to a calf strain. Fowles was in street clothes on the bench and her lower left leg in a soft walking cast.
Sky coach Pokey Chatman was pleased with Swords’ play, especially in Fowles’ absence.
“The biggest thing for her is that she practices against Sylvia everyday, so we don’t have to worry so much about getting her ready for an opponent,” Chatman said. “She went 5-for-5, took a lot of space up in the middle, and she got nine rebounds, but it felt like more. She always seems to be in the right place making good screens getting people open, making other people better with her play.”
The Sky broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter with a 13-3 run over the final 5 minutes. They finished with a 40-18 scoring edge in the paint and had a 31-24 rebounding advantage. Chicago also outscored Minnesota 17-0 in second-chance points, marking the first time in franchise history it blanked an opponent in such situations.
“The most important thing offensively, putting up 83 points, was we didn’t settle for the first jumper off the screen,” Chatman said. “We penetrated and found open shooters by getting the defense to move by moving the basketball well. Everything at this time of the year is going to get done on the grind, and that starts with defense, but our offense looked good tonight as well.”
Swin Cash’s jumper with 6:50 left in the third gave the Sky a 50-40 lead. Minnesota chipped away and pulled to 52-49 on Moore’s 3-pointer with 4:50 to go.
However, the Lynx never got closer as Prince scored 10 points in the period to help the Sky take a 61-55 lead heading to the fourth.
“They played harder than we did,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They had 17 second-chance points and we had zero. That is the most telling stat of the night and those are hustle plays. We got outworked simply.”
Vandersloot scored eight points in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers—as the Sky led by six points. The Lynx trimmed the lead to 23-22 by the end of the period on Wiggins’ 3.
Prince credited Vandersloot for picking up her play lately.
“She’s just playing real poised, being more aggressive,” Prince said. “I always knew she could score the ball and now that Syl’s down and we need more points, she’s attacking better, looking for her shot. But she’s still running the offense and getting us in positions where we need to be.”
Chicago outscored Minnesota 17-7 in the second quarter—to take a 40-29 lead at the break—partly due to six turnovers by the Lynx. Vandersloot closed with half with 10 points while Sonja Petrovic added nine. Brunson led Minnesota with nine.
“We have started a bad habit with not coming out (with) good efforts in the first half and make storybook second half comebacks,” Moore said. “Tonight we couldn’t finish that story book comeback. … We knew that it was going to be a tough game. From the start of the game when they took a lead on us, we knew they were coming to play. We just didn’t make the adjustments we needed to.”