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Parker helps Chicago even WNBA semifinals with Connecticut

Veteran Candace Parker has been outstanding for the defending champion Chicago Sky in the first two games of this year’s WNBA semifinal series.

She blocked shots. She had steals. She hit fadeway jump shots and played with an steely intensity. Chicago’s Candace Parker didn’t look like a 15-year veteran or a 36-year-old forward, who has fewer playing days ahead of her than are behind her.

For the second straight game, Parker was the player of the game as the defending WNBA champion Chicago Sky evened their best-of-5 semifinal series over the Connecticut Sun with a 85-77 victory on Wednesday night at Wintrust Arena.

On Sunday, Parker had a game-high 19 points, 18 rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists in a 68-63 loss. On Wednesday, she had a team-high 22 points, another three blocks, a steal and four assists as she helped the Sky pull away from the Sun.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Parker said. “It’s just so much fun. There are just four teams and everyone has to watch us. It is being out there (on the floor) competing and having fun.”

Chicago had five players in double figures with Emma Meesseman with 14 points and Allie Quigley scoring 13. Kahleah Copper added 12 points with Courtney Vandersloot scoring 10 with a game-high eight assists.

The Sun received a game-high 23 points from Jonquel Jones but she didn’t get much help. Natisha Hiedeman scored 14 points but most of her points came once the game had been decided.

Dewanna Bonner, who had 15 points in game one had just two points and was 0-for-6 from the floor. Shooting guard Courtney Williams continued to struggle in the playoffs scoring just six points. She missed her first six shots from the floor and finished 3-for-10.

Game three of the best-of-5 series is Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“You could feel some of the frustration that weref missing wide open shots against their aggressive (defense) and rotations,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “We just couldn’t make them pay for their aggressiveness making some open shots.”

The Sun missed 38 shots and came up with only seven offensive rebounds. “If we’re going to miss 38, we have to get back more than seven,” Miller said.

Led by Parker, the Sky got back to the free-wheeling style where they make crisp cuts, set solid screens and thread the needle with crowd-pleasing passes.

“I would rather throw a dime (pass) than get a bucket,” Parker said. “We pride ourselves on our assists.”

Parker’s shooting helped the Sky pull away from Connecticut. Chicago built an early eight-point lead but the Sun cut the lead to three points on a baseline jumper from Jonquel Jones with 2:37 left in the first quarter, 20-17.

Parker came down the floor and drained a three-point shot to extend the lead to six. When Jones missed at the other end of the floor, Azura Stevens pulled down the rebound for the Sky and Parker flew past Jones to the basket to push the lead to eight, 22-14.

In the second quarter, Connecticut cut the lead to six on Williams’ first jumper of the game but Parker responded by scoring over Bonner in the lane. A little over a minute later, Parker drained a three-point shot to push the lead to 13 points. A minute later, Parker hit her fifth straight field goal over Alyssa Thomas to five the Sky a 15-point lead.

“Her fitness and strength and the intangibles she has added late in her career are impressive. She is really fit and plays with a really high motor,” Miller said. “She doesn’t take plays off anymore and it is impressive to watch.”

Parker is a two-time WNBA champion, winning her first title with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016 and her second a year ago with the Sky.

Chicago led by as many as 20 points and the Sun did cut the lead to eight points in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter but the Sky were never really threatened.

“It’s fun to be in this position,” Parker said. “You work hard throughout the year to get here. You have an opportunity (for a championship). This team has an opportunity. So, we can’t not seize the opportunity. Let’s go out and just basketball.”

WNBA semifinals
(2) Chicago vs. (3) Connecticut
Sunday, Aug. 28
Connecticut 68, Chicago 63
Wednesday, Aug. 31
Chicago 85, Connecticut 77, series tied 1-1
Sunday, September 4
Chicago at Connecticut, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Tuesday, Sept, 6
Chicago at Connecticut, TBA
Thursday, Sept. 8
Connecticut at Chicago, TBA, if necessary

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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