Chicago routs Phoenix, 102-80 and Delle Donne only one of “Three to See” with victory after opening weekend
Elene Delle Donne is the only player of the heralded “Three to See” to end the opening weekend of the 2013 WNBA season on a victorious team. In a sold out game at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Delle Donne’s visiting Chicago Sky bested the Phoenix Mercury 102-80 in a blowout that included two dunks from the Mercury rookie and No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner, one of three celebrated first-year pros in addition to No. 2 pick Delle Donne and No. 3 pick Skylar Diggins.
“Today was absolutely amazing,” said Delle Donne about her first game. “We came here to get a win and that’s what we’re leaving with. I feel like we were able to execute our game plan well and it’s great to get out of here with a W. It’s been a while since the draft and I’ve been waiting for this first game. It feels like an eternity so I’m glad it went so well.”
The Delaware graduate appeared to have no trouble adjusting to the pros.
“I’d have to say the biggest difference between the two games (college and pro) I would say is the speed of the game,” she said, “definitely and there is just different terminology and roles that I’m still getting used to.”
Griner got into foul trouble early, collecting three in the first quarter limiting her to just 7:25 first-half minutes. Her first pro career dunk came at 7:52 in the fourth quarter off a feed from Chardé Houston. Her second came 5:34 later when she grabbed a loose ball and threw down a two-handed dunk in transition.
“It was tough on her because she got those three fouls and I made the decision to let her stay in,” said Mercury head coach Corey Gaines. “Then I saw the way the game was being called and instead of putting it on her I felt that I needed to get her out of the game. And that really hurt us because she is a big part of our team.”
Sky guard Epiphany Prince led her team with 26 points while Delle Donne contributed 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot had 14 points and Tamera Young finished with 10 points and four rebounds. The Sky shot 50.7 percent from the field including 8-of-16 (.500) from the three-point line. In the second quarter, the Sky connected on 5-of-7 (.714) from downtown and 70.8 percent from the field overall.
“The key was that first three and a half minutes when neither offense knew what they were doing,” said Sky head coach Pokey Chatman. “It was a matter of some scouting and getting some people locked in and I think first game jitters. I think we did a decent job defensively. You don’t usually say that when a team scores 80 and our goal was 72 but at the end of the day but I think at the end of the day, when the game needed to be decided, we locked in on some key defensive plays.”
For Phoenix, veteran Diana Taurasi scored 18 points and dished out four assists.
“We had a lot of issues today,” said Taurasi and we really couldn’t get much done on either side of the ball. They also played a hell of a game. They came in here and gave us a pretty good kickin’. They deserved it; they played better from the beginning to the end.”
Griner had 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Candice Dupree added 15 points and four rebounds while DeWanna Bonner finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Griner became only the third player in WNBA history to dunk, the first to do it twice and first in a rookie debut. Candace Parker dunked in 2008.
Taurasi has confidence that Griner’s ability to perform in future games.
“Foul trouble will happen,” said Taurasi. “It is a part of the game. But the way she came out in the second half was good news. To be on the bench the whole first half and come out in the second and play that well, if we can get two halves of that then we have a chance at winning some games.”
Phoenix travels to Seattle to take on the Storm on June 2. The Sky host Tulsa on the same day.
Earlier in the day, Diggins’ Tulsa Shock went 0-2 after losing a 95-90 overtime contest to the visiting Washington Mystics. The Shock also lost on the road Saturday night in Atlanta, 72-58.
Ivory Latta led Washington with 27 points. Matee Ajavon scored 19, Crystal Langhorne had 16 plus nine rebounds. Kia Vaughn was also in double figures with 10 points plus five rebounds.
Tulsa’s Roneeka Hodges was the high scorer for her team with 22. Australian center Liz Cambage contributed 21 plus 10 rebounds while Glory Johnson added 20 and 14 reboundsd. Diggins finished with nine points and 11 assists.
- Griner now is tied for the most dunks all-time in a WNBA career (2, CANDACE PARKER, in 2008, also her rookie season) and became the first player in WNBA history to record multiple dunks in the same game.
- The game marked just the second time in league history that the top two picks in the same WNBA Draft squared off in their respective pro debuts (1-1 record). The No. 1 overall pick fell to 8-8 (.500) all-time against the second overall pick in the initial meeting following their selections.
- Griner’s four blocks were tied for third-most in a WNBA debut all-time and the most in a debut since Khadijah Whittington (Indiana) and Sylvia Fowles (Chicago) each recorded four blocks in their respective debuts on May 17, 2008. The late Margo Dydek, the league’s all-time leader in career blocked shots, holds the debut record with six on June 11, 1998.