Injury limits Delle Donne in Sky win

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Put yourself in Chicago coach Pokey Chatman's shoes for just a moment.

You are drawing up a game plan to stave off elimination from the WNBA playoffs against the team that swept you out of the postseason a year ago.

And in your play, Elena Delle Donne, of the league's brightest stars with one of its most multi-facted skill sets, is a decoy.

Yes, a decoy.

"I don't know if you noticed," Chicago's coach said.

And it worked, if not like a charm, then like the kind of decision borne of necessity and more than a little desperation.

Chicago lived to play another day after overcoming a 14-point first-half deficit to edge Indiana 86-84 in double overtime in one of the most thrilling games in WNBA playoff history.

Behind a career playoff-high 27 points from Sylvia Fowles, the Sky won their first home postseason game in franchise history on Labor Day, a date apropos for this grind-it-out game. But now they have to win one more in Indiana on Wednesday against a team that they are 8-31 against all time.

Chicago and Indiana traded the lead 12 times Monday. In the second overtime period, Delle Donne gave the Sky a 83-79 lead with a layup on a drive with 1:38 to go, a score that kept the Fever from pulling even again the rest of the way.

Delle Donne lay on her stomach on the treatment table after the game, looking more relieved than anything else. She finished with nine points, going 4-for-11 from the floor with three rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots.

"We told her, 'Just stand there, and we'll play off you,' because it changes the scheme," Chatman said. "That's trust in a player that understands how important she is to us and her trust in her teammates."

Delle Donne said she tweaked her lower back during the Atlanta series, the same one in which she scored 34 points in Game 3 on the road to send her team to the next round. But the injury has been getting "a little bit worse" in Delle Donne's estimation and she is headed to the doctor for an examination before Wednesday's deciding Game 3 in Indianapolis.

Delle Donne admitted she was significantly hampered Monday.

"I couldn't move," she said. "I was trying to impact the game in any way I could. I told Pokey to make me a distraction. Try to take the help side away, and I think it helped a little bit. Anything I could do, trying not to move."

Delle Donne -- who missed 17 games in the regular season as she fought a recurrence of Lyme disease -- left the court frequently, laying on the floor and getting stretched by the trainer before coming back in. During timeouts, a heating pad was placed on her back.

Delle Donne said having the game go into two overtime periods was painful on every level.

"It was like, 'This game needs to end. We need to hurry up and win,'" Delle Donne said. "It just kept going and I was like, 'Oh my God.' It was alright, though, I just had to battle it out. A win always helps."

A win that happened because of Delle Donne's contributions, but not her dominance. Fowles delivered there, shooting 12-of-14 from the floor to go with seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks. And Fowles was book-ended by point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who finished with 18 points, five assists and an 8-for-8 effort from the free throw line.

"We fed the monster," Chatman said of Fowles. "She was in beast mode in every aspect. ... She played a long time in foul trouble, but she didn't melt on screens and she didn't disappear. She stayed aggressive."

And Chatman called Vandersloot the toughest player on her team.

"We wanted to come in here and protect our home court and we knew this was our only shot in this series," Vandersloot said. "And we knew we weren't going to win this game without getting stops."

Indiana built a 14-point first-half lead and led 39-31 heading into the half as Fowles sat on the bench in foul trouble, picking up three fouls in the first quarter. But Fowles' return to the floor in the second half changed the game. The Sky got the ball down low and Fowles almost unfailingly put in the basket.

"If Syl decides to take over a game," Delle Donne said, "it's really hard for anybody to stop her."

Another difficult day for shooting guard Epiphanny Prince (0-for-9) brought Allie Quigley, the league's Sixth Player of the Year, off the bench for long stretches. Quigley scored 16 points, hit three 3-pointers and dished five assists.

Fever star Tamika Catchings harassed Delle Donne much of the game, leading a Fever defense that couldn't find a way to contain fouls or recapture the momentum when the Sky went ahead for the first time since a 16-16 tie, assuming a 61-60 lead on a Vandersloot score with 5:37 to go in regulation.

Indiana had five players in double figures, but struggled in the second half and overtime to find good shots as Chicago locked down defensively.

Shavonte Zellous, whose shot from the corner fell off the rim to end the game, led the Fever with 20 points. Catchings finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Erlana Larkins had 15 points and 11 rebounds. The Fever had a 49-35 rebounding advantage to finish the game.

"We just have to regroup and get ready for the next game," Catchings said. "We are going to change a few things and come out ready to play. We just have to go out and play with heart."

Chatman said she was going to give herself about an hour to celebrate.

"We know this means nothing if we don't finish the job," Chatman said.