ATLANTA — Despite trailing by 17 early in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Sky weren't ready to give up on their season. Instead, they kept their focus and pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.
Elena Delle Donne scored 17 of her 34 points in the final period, including the winning jumper with 8.4 seconds left, as the Sky rallied from 20 points down to beat the Atlanta Dream 81-80 on Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
"I just know that when we were in huddles and I was talking to the team, everyone had that look in their eye like we were not done yet — we were not ready to go home," Delle Donne said. "So I was very confident. ... I knew we were playing pretty good defense, just not doing the little things like finishing with a rebound, finishing with a contested shot."
The Sky, who trailed by 16 after three quarters, became the first team to rally from such a deficit in a playoff game since the WNBA went to four quarters in 2006, according to information provided by the league from the Elias Sports Bureau. It's been done three times in regular-season games.
Tamera Young scored 16 points and Sylvia Fowles added 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Sky won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Chicago was swept by Indiana in the first round last year in the Sky's first postseason appearance.
The Sky will visit the Fever for the opener of the East finals on Saturday.
The road team won each game in this best-of-three series, with Chicago taking the opener 80-77 last Friday, and Atlanta winning 92-83 in Game 2 on Sunday.
Erika de Souza scored 18 points and Angel McCoughtry had 17 for the Dream, who reached the WNBA Finals in three of the last four seasons.
Chicago trailed 44-24 about midway through the second quarter and was down 72-55 with 8:12 remaining. Delle Donne then scored 13 points during the Sky's 19-2 run that tied the score at 74-all on her 3-pointer with 3:33 to go.
"In the fourth quarter, coach put the ball in my hands, the team trusted me and it just went from there," Delle Donne said.
The Dream shot 1 for 6 from the field with three turnovers during Chicago's big run before de Souza and McCoughtry made baskets 20 seconds apart to put the Dream up four with 2:14 to go.
"I think we got away from what we were doing well," Dream coach Michael Cooper said. "I thought the execution of our offense kind of went out the window a little bit. We started to take some quick shots and some bad shots. And then our defense kind of got away from us."
Shoni Schimmel's jumper gave Atlanta an 80-77 lead with 29 seconds left, but Delle Donne made two jumpers in the last 24 seconds — with the final basket giving Chicago its first lead since 6-5.
"It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays. My big time player (Delle Donne) stepped up."