Wade could feel a hesitation, of sorts, that needed to be addressed.
“I think we had some Finals jitters,” Wade said. “I felt like we were maybe a little nervous, collectively. And once we settled down, I thought we kind of showed who we were.”
The Sky quickly exited the haze, and it used a dominant second quarter to take a double-digit lead and never trailed the rest of the way in a 91-77 victory. Twenty-four hours later, the team lounged before a light shoot-around in Footprint Center. Candace Parker entertained a line of reporters while Kahleah Copper sat nearby, doing the same, occasionally kicking up her legs onto adjacent chairs. Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot filled the last seats along the sideline while the rest of the team joked together on the baseline.
Those jitters and any nervousness from playing on the game’s biggest stage seemed to be long gone — and that’s an accomplishment for a group without a ton of Finals experience. Parker, Quigley and Vandersloot are the only three who have played in the Finals, and Parker is the only one with a championship ring. The pressure, the stakes and the consequences are new for everyone else.
By comparison, the Mercury has three WNBA championships as an organization. Coach Sandy Brondello, Taurasi and Brittney Griner have won at least one ring in Phoenix. Shey Peddy was part of the Mystics organization when it won a title in 2019.
“I think we’re happy to be here, but we’re obviously taking it seriously,” Sky center Stefanie Dolson said. “Think we’re just trying to stay level. Not get too high, not get too low. We’re trying to act like we have been here before. Pretend you’ve been here before.
“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, you went to U-Conn. — you know how this is.’ Whoa, that was like nine years ago. I’m really freaking out, to be honest with you. But I always get nervous.”
The Sky credits camaraderie developed through adversity early in the season for it not being overwhelmed by the situation. Parker, who signed with her hometown team with the goal of bringing the franchise its first title, sprained her ankle before the second game of the season and missed eight straight games. The Sky dropped seven in a row and fell to 2-7 to start the season. Parker returned, and the Sky ran off seven straight wins.
Those ups and downs turned out to be a positive.
“I feel like we tell each other the truth and we have no egos,” Parker said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. All of us want to win, and it’s been shown in our action. … I want people to tell me what they have to say for us to win. And I don’t think we have egos that take it personally. When you’re searching for something, you’re fighting for something you’ve never had, how do you have an ego?”
While the camaraderie and closeness of the group have helped power it through difficult times and lessen the gravity of a possible life-changing experience, Copper points to Parker leading the vanguard from the front.
“I think that we’re just grateful that we have Candace Parker,” Copper said with Parker sitting two seats away. “She is an old lady who’s been in this league and been through adversity and been at the highest level of it.
“So I think that she’s been that calm through the storm for us. And when she wasn’t playing, she was still that voice and still that leader for us. And I think that her leadership goes a really long way.”
Quigley noted that this roster has more experience than the group that made the Sky’s lone previous Finals appearance in 2014, particularly from other competitive situations that weren’t necessarily in the WNBA. She explained that overseas competition fosters growth as a player, and those experiences are valuable and can’t be dismissed.
Game 2 is scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
“This has been kind of a long time coming,” Quigley said before a team workout Tuesday. “We’ve played in championship games over there and just have that experience.
“So, this time around, just feel a little bit more confident. Once you’re playing good and you know who you are as a team, you just kind of latch on to that and want to do everything you can to keep it that way.”
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