The Fever holds on to win a great Commissioner’s Cup game over the Chicago Sky 89-87. It was a great win for the Fever on the day of a new Federal Holiday (second year now) Juneteenth. The crowd at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum was in a festive mood and excited to see the win.
In celebration of the holiday, the players all wore black to the game for their usual pregame fashion walk up from the parking lot. There was a local group that sang the national anthem and then sang Lift Every Voice and Sing just before the tip-off. Many in the crowd as well as players looked happy to reflect on the meaning of the new federal holiday as throughout the game some of the giveaways were based on answering questions concerning the origin and meaning of Juneteenth. Once again, the WNBA did a great job of reflecting on the current happenings away from the basketball court.
To give a quick history of Juneteenth, here are a few things to reflect on. These facts are courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Juneteenth is a day to acknowledge and celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans from slavery. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until later. That freedom came on June 19, 1865, when 2000 union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. The Army announced that more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people of Texas.
Juneteenth marks our country’s second Independence Day. Although it’s been celebrated by some in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown by most Americans. The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows all Americans the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.
This was certainly a great reason for the WNBA and the Fever to take time to reflect on this historical event.
As far as the game itself, the Fever came out strong trying to take advantage of the Chicago Sky who were without their big star in the middle Candace Parker who was out with a knee injury. The Fever went toe to toe with the Sky in the first quarter finishing the quarter with a 28-25 lead thanks to Tiffany Mitchell's steal and layup with 51 seconds to go in the quarter.
The second quarter was a little rough for the Fever as the Chicago Sky went to work. Mistakes were plenty for the Fever as the Sky took advantage of them to take a 50-37 lead into the half thanks to a 19-3 run to end the half.
To open the second half, after a pair of free throws were made by Kahleah Cooper to push the Sky lead up to 15, the Fever went on a 10-0 run over a 2-minute stretch to get the momentum swinging their way. At the 4:20 mark of the third quarter, Danielle Robinson hit two free throws to give the Fever a 57-56 lead. Indiana took a 72-70 lead into the final quarter.
It was a battle in the final quarter. The Fever and the home crown were ready for the battle. NaLyssa Smith was fouled as she shot a turnaround jumper that went in. She completed the three-point play to give the Fever an 88-87 lead with 39 seconds left in the game. Chicago had a few easy looks at the basket but missed from point-blank range. Victoria Vivians was fouled and made one of her two free throws with 7.8 seconds to go. After a timeout, Cortney Vandersloot had another shot at the rim for the tie but missed and the Fever win 89-87.
It was another career day for NaLyssa Smith as she scored 26 points with 11 rebounds. Kelsey Mitchell scored 13 points with nine assists. Emma Cannon scored 11 points and Lexie Hull finished with a new career-high of 10 points.
Kahleah Cooper also had a career day scoring 28 points for the Sky. Cortney Vandersloot scored 13 points and had 7 assists. Emma Meesseman had 12 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assist,s and 3 blocked shots.
NaLyssa Smith said after the game, “I came into the game knowing I had to have a dominant performance to get the win.” Smith showed up to win, and the Fever did. This won 5 for the Fever and they did it as a team. Next will be four in a row on the road against Dallas, two with Phoenix, and then Seattle. They will be home again on July 5th vs Seattle.