All Scores

Sky’s blueprint for beating the Sun comes down to the details

Candace Parker needs more help from her teammates for the Sky to come back in the semifinal series. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Curt Miller isn’t afraid to say it.

His team doesn’t have the smooth, offensive beauty that the Sky, Storm and Aces have. When the Sun win, they win ugly.

“There are a lot of free-flowing offenses of the teams left, and we know who we are,” he said on Sunday after his team upset the Sky 68-63 in Game 1 of the semifinals. “We are blue collar. We are going to be good around the basket, we are going to rebound, but we have to make it messy. And we got the game messy tonight, which was to our advantage.”

While the Sun are comfortable in that mess, the Sky are not. Their season has been defined by silky cuts to the hoop and organic ball movement.

“We need to be more in rhythm,” Julie Allemand said Tuesday after a practice session. “We just have to share the ball like we do. We were static, we were just waiting. We need to run, don’t overthink, just play our game.”

On Sunday, the Sun dictated everything from the pace to the style of play. Connecticut did all the little things right, while the Sky came up short in the details, an area they’ve typically thrived in this season.

Of the five matchups these two teams have had — four in the regular season and one in the postseason — Miller says the outcome has been decided in the final few minutes.

The reasons for the Sky’s loss were imprinted all over the contest, but the final four minutes of play offer a clear snapshot of the entire game. Here’s how it went down Sunday and what it means for the semifinal series as the teams prepare to tip off Wednesday in Game 2.

3:58 left: Alyssa Thomas drives to the hoop and knocks down a floater

Thomas’ game is a perfect example of the kind of grit Miller wants from his players. Despite shooting just 6-for-16 from the field (37.5 percent) in Sunday’s game, she made an impact in other ways. She had 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and, despite the overall sloppiness of the game, just one turnover.

Thomas’ ability to do everything for the Sun is a major key to victory. In the Sun’s 11 losses this season, Thomas has been held under five in one category (points, assists or rebounds) in all but three. The Sun thrive when she has a hand in every play. To have success in this series, the Sky need to limit at least one aspect of Thomas’ game, whether it’s stopping her from scoring, keeping her off the glass or limiting her ability to create for others.

3:26 left: Candace Parker knocks down a 3-pointer, assisted by Courtney Vandersloot

Parker did everything in her power to will the Sky to a win, finishing with 19 points, 18 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and four steals. Chicago, though, has found success in its balanced attack this season, and it didn’t get that on Sunday. Kahleah Copper’s 13 points and Emma Meesseman’s 10 were both under their season averages. Beyond those three, the Sky didn’t have another double-digit scorer. Allie Quigley finished with seven points while going 0-for-5 from 3-point range, while Vandersloot had just five points.

The Sky also didn’t get any major contributions from their bench, as Allemand, Azurá Stevens and Rebekah Gardner combined for nine points, seven rebounds and four assists.

In addition to the uncharacteristic lack of balance, Vandersloot’s performance was highly uncharacteristic. The guard averages 6.5 assists per game, second-best in the WNBA, but her dish to Parker to tie the game at 60 was just her second of the contest. Vandersloot has had only one game this season with fewer assists than the two she recorded Sunday: In a win over the Sparks on June 23, she finished with one assist in 16 minutes of play.

The Sky are capable of winning when Vandersloot doesn’t score, but they need her to be active in running the offense.

3:08 left: Kahleah Copper misses a 2-pointer

The Sky had a chance to take the lead at this point, and despite the miss, Copper is exactly the player they should go to in crunch time. Last season’s Finals MVP averages 15.7 points per game and has more than proved she’s capable of stepping up in big moments.

Copper started the game 4-for-4 with eight points and then didn’t take another shot in the second or third quarters. She had five attempts in the fourth. Copper needs to be a focal point of the Sky’s offense if they want to be successful in Game 2.

2:35 left: Brionna Jones makes a layup

The Sun have relied on Jones to make an impact off the bench all season — which is why she is a leading candidate for Sixth Player of the Year — and her impact was felt once again on Sunday. She scored 12 points off the bench to go along with three rebounds, three assists and one block.

1:31 left: DeWanna Bonner makes two free throws

Like Thomas, Bonner does a lot of the dirty work for the Sun. She finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, but no moment was more important than these free throws to give Connecticut a three-point lead. Bonner shot just 4-for-16 from the field during the game but still found a way to make an impact. It was exactly the kind of messy performance that Miller wants from his players.

1:08: Jonquel Jones blocks Parker

The Sun’s defense was one of the biggest factors in their opening-game upset. After holding the Sky to 35.5 percent shooting and 26.7 percent from beyond the arc, Jones put an exclamation mark on the performance by rejecting Parker and maintaining her team’s three-point lead. The Sky’s last point came on a 3-pointer from Meesseman with 2:11 left in the game. From then on, Connecticut locked down.

The Sun proved capable of covering up a lot of shortcomings — like their 37.3 percent shooting performance — with defense, and the way they smothered Chicago down the stretch was a major key to the win.

Jones, who was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team on Tuesday, did an excellent job guarding the paint and forcing Chicago into high-difficulty shots.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

Watch: Iowa star Kate Martin’s draft moment goes viral

Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert after being drafted by the Las Vegas Aces during the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York
2nd-round pick Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert Commissioner of the WNBA at the 2024 draft. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa captain Kate Martin was in the audience during Monday night’s draft when she was selected 18th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. 

The moment quickly went viral, as Martin was in the crowd to support superstar teammate Caitlin Clark going No. 1 overall, and was not one of the 14 players invited to the draft.

"To be honest, I don't think I'd have the type of career if I don't have a teammate like Kate," Clark said about Martin leading up to the 2024 national championship game. "She's been one that has had my back. She holds me accountable. I hold her accountable. But I think at the same time, me and Kate are wired so similarly that we get each other on a different level."

Martin being drafted marks the first time that Iowa has had two players selected in the same WNBA draft since 1998.

“She's one of the best leaders I've been around," Clark said. "She wants the best for her teammates. She's one of the most selfless people."

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Monday that she is “so proud” of her player, “because her dreams came true.”

"She has been such a big part of our program over the last six years,” she said. “Her efforts did not go unnoticed by her peers. I wish Kate all the success with this next step.”

Martin said afterward that she’s “excited for the opportunity” and to showcase her “really good” work ethic. Helping Iowa to back-to-back NCAA title games, Martin finished her college career with 1,299 points, 756 rebounds and 473 assists.

“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Martin said in an interview on ESPN. “I’m really happy to be here. I was here to support Caitlin, but I was hoping to hear my name called. All I wanted was an opportunity and I got it. I’m really excited.”

While Martin was watching from the crowd, her family was watching from back home.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.