ROSEMONT, Ill. — Elena Delle Donne is starting to work her way back into form and the Chicago Sky are going to need their young star if they hope to make a playoff push.
Delle Donne scored 21 points in her second game back after a recurrence of Lyme disease that caused her to miss 17 of the Sky’s previous 18 games. Sylvia Fowles added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago in a 76-65 win over Washington on Sunday.
“It was definitely just great to be out there and feel good and healthy,” said Delle Donne, who played 16 minutes. “The only thing holding me back a little bit right now is my lungs. It’s definitely a positive thing and I’m happy that I was able to bounce back for a second game.”
The victory tightened up the Eastern Conference even further as only one game separates the second place Mystics and fifth place Sky in the standings.
“We’re really clicking now on all cylinders,” Delle Donne said.
Coach Pokey Chatman was thrilled with her team’s work on the defensive end.
“The best thing about this game was the defensive energy,” she said. “We were solid on the defense end from the beginning, in the middle and it seemed as the game went on we got stronger.”
Chicago converted 19 turnovers into 15 points and also had 10 steals.
The Mystics (13-15) got to within six points early in the fourth quarter but no closer as the Sky replied with eight straight points for a 69-57 lead with 5:33 to play.
Emma Meesseman scored 17 points while Ivory Latta had 12 as Washington dropped its second straight.
“We had a brief recovery in the second and third quarter and made it a five-point game,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault. “We had a chance and then we gave it right back.”
The Sky never trailed and led by as many as 11 points in the opening quarter. Fowles had six points and four rebounds as Chicago held a 20-11 lead after one quarter.
Delle Donne played nearly 10 first half minutes with a pair of 3 pointer shots plus a three-point play and a block in the second quarter as her nine point effort helped Chicago to a 43-31 halftime lead. Latta’s six second quarter points gave her a team-high nine for the half.
In the third quarter Washington outscored the Sky 19-10 over the first 7:55 and cut the deficit to three at 53-50 on Meesseman’s short turnaround jumper with 2:05 left.
But Delle Donne replied with a 3 pointer and Faulkner added a fast-break layout and free throw after she was fouled as Chicago pushed to led to 59-50 with 1:20 left and 61-52 entering the fourth quarter.
Both teams return to action Tuesday as Washington hosts New York while Chicago travels to Connecticut.