UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Like a great maestro, Courtney Vandersloot orchestrated one of the best games in WNBA playoff history.
Vandersloot had the second triple-double in the postseason with 12 points, a league playoff-record 18 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Chicago Sky to a 101-95 double-overtime victory over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night in the opener of their best-of-five series.
“She’s amazing,” Chicago coach James Wade said. “Look at the stat sheet and the way she controlled the game. She was able to control the game from the beginning to the end. She had a special game. One of the best point guard games in playoff history. I’m not surprised because this is what she does.”
Vandersloot had no idea that she was close to the historic stats. She was just focused on trying to get the Sky the huge victory.
“It’s really special. I didn’t know I had the triple-double until the end,” Vandersloot said.
Sheryl Swoopes had the only other triple-double in WNBA playoff history, which she did in 2005.
“She’s elite. To be with that company, that’s obviously special,” Vandersloot said. “To do it in the playoffs, I needed 50 minutes to do it.”
With the game tied at 93, Candace Parker scored on a layup off a neat pass for Vandersloot’s record-breaking assist. Vandersloot, who broke Sue Bird’s mark of 16 set last postseason, then threw a beautiful pass to Stefanie Dolson to give the Sky a four-point lead with 1:29 left.
Connecticut couldn’t recover, scoring only its second basket of the second OT on Brionna Jones’ jumper with 13.7 seconds left that made it 98-95. Vandersloot got her 10th rebound with 7.9 seconds remaining.
“She orchestrates everything out there,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “She’s so good with the basketball. Huge game for her. We have to look at different ways to disrupt her. That’s Slooty. That’s what we think about her each and every night, she has the ability to just orchestrate everything.”
Jonquel Jones, who was honored as the league’s MVP before the game, led the Sun with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Brionna Jones, who earned Most Improved Player honors as well, added 22 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, which lost only one game at home during the regular season en route to the league’s best record.
This was the league’s first double-overtime playoff game since 2015 between the Mystics and Liberty.
“I’m disappointed with the end result, but a great game to start the semifinals,” Miller said. “I think there was 14 lead changes, 15 ties. We get a double-overtime game in Game 1. … Really good game to start for the WNBA.”
Both teams had chances to end the game before the second OT. DeWanna Bonner missed an off-balance shot at the end of regulation.
With the game tied at 91 in the first OT, the Sky dribbled the clock down before Brionna Jones stole the ball. Connecticut couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer, sending it to the second extra session.
The Sun, who won the last 14 games of the regular season, got off to a slow start in their first game since Sept. 19. They trailed by 11 but scored 10 of the final 12 points to cut it to 24-21 after one quarter.
Connecticut kept its roll going in the second and led 44-40 before Diamond DeShields scored the final seven points of the half for Chicago to give the Sky a 47-46 lead at the break.
Neither team could get much separation in the third quarter and the Sky led by three heading into the final period.
Miller was proud that he could continue to be a role model as the only openly gay man to coach in the WNBA,
“It’s part of what my legacy will be. I want to be visible,” said Miller, who was honored as the league’s Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. “I want to represent the next wave of gay male coaches that now have someone to look at that you can thrive and be successful and no one can tell you otherwise.”
Miller admitted earlier in his career he was more focused on being a successful coach then helping to be a trailblazer.
“I didn’t want to be the gay coach,” he said. “I wasted some years to be a role model to the next generation of young gay men that are struggling,”
Chicago won two of the three matchups during the regular season, but the Sun were missing Jonquel Jones for all three games. … Chicago advanced to the semifinals by beating Dallas at home before upsetting third-seed Minnesota on the road.
The Sun were the lower-seeded team last year in the semifinals and won Game 1 against top-seeded Las Vegas. The Aces ended up winning that series.
Game 2 is Thursday in Connecticut before the series shifts to Chicago for potentially the next two games.
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