While taking a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 of the WNBA semifinals Tuesday night, the Chicago Sky repeated a popular Kobe Bryant meme — “Job’s not finished” — as a reminder not to get too comfortable.
Coach James Wade wanted the Sky to keep the same defensive intensity they showed in Game 3 on Sunday, when they limited the Connecticut Sun to 18-for-48 shooting in the paint.
“You try to build on what you do well, and that means getting better at it and taking a step forward,” Wade said before Game 4. “We never try to stay in the same place (because) that means we’re not growing.”
But with a chance to put away the series and return to the WNBA Finals, the Sky relaxed.
The Sun raced to a big early lead and never let up in a 104-80 blowout in Uncasville, Conn., that evened the series at two games apiece. The decisive Game 5 will be Thursday at Wintrust Arena (7 p.m., ESPN2).
The Sky looked a step slow defensively and once again got off to a slow start on offense, falling behind 22-6 less than six minutes into the game. Several Sun starters were in foul trouble, but the Sky never took advantage, allowing the Sun to force them outside.
“I just thought we couldn’t match what they gave early on, and it put us on our heels‚” Wade said of the Sun’s defensive effort. “We were playing catch-up and it kind of scattered us a little bit.”
Facing elimination, the Sun dominated on both ends. They set a WNBA playoff record with 66 points in the paint, breaking a mark the Sky set against the New York Liberty in the first round.
Sun coach Curt Miller, who has emphasized throughout the series his team’s need to keep the game “messy,” also made points in the paint and first-quarter performance points of focus for Game 4. The Sun responded by setting the tone early with aggressiveness at both ends.
At one point in the first half, the Sky were able to chip away at the Sun’s lead, but led by Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner, the Sun responded and went to the locker room up 58-41.
The second half saw more of the same with the Sun playing the Sky’s style of play and going on a 17-6 run from the 2:16 mark in the third quarter until 7:27 remained in the fourth. The Connecticut offense kept the Sky from clogging the paint, and the Sun were able to score on backdoor cuts with ease.
“We felt deflated after Game 3 that we did so well defensively and couldn’t get to the finish line,” Miller said. “Incredible heart and determination by our players to do what they’re capable of. That’s that’s all them tonight. Heart and effort and incredible focus throughout the entire game.”
Sky guard Allie Quigley, who struggled to find her shot in Game 3, returned to form by shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc to finish with 10 points. Despite her bounce-back contributions, Quigley was unable to focus on her performance.
“There were just too many details that we missed,” she said. “We weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. We missed people behind us and let them go back door.
“We just had too many moments when we just weren’t there and weren’t ready. We just weren’t focused.”
Bonner and Courtney Williams scored 19 points apiece as the Sun shot 56.9% from the field (41 of 72). Thomas added 17 as six Sun players scored in double figures.
The Sky also had six in double figures, led by Kahleah Copper’s 16 points and Emma Meesseman’s 14. But they were unable to keep up with the Sun’s ball movement and trailed by as many as 27 points.
“We just weren’t good enough at certain times,” Wade said. “I have to look at the film more just to see who was late on rotations and how much pressure was on the ball.”
Overshadowed by the loss, Sky forward Candace Parker passed Tamika Catchings for No. 1 on the all-time playoff rebounds list with 599 and for No. 2 in playoff points (1,141).