Still working out their kinks on offense, the San Antonio Silver Stars are leaning on what they do well — defense. And that focus helped them hand heralded rookie Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky their first loss.
Danielle Robinson had 18 points and seven assists and San Antonio rolled to an 81-69 victory Friday night, holding Chicago 24 points below its season average.
Jia Perkins added 13 points to top 3,000 career points, Danielle Adams had 13 points and DeLisha Milton-Jones added 10 for the Silver Stars (2-1), who led by 17 points in the second half.
Delle Donne, the second overall pick in this year's WNBA draft, was held to 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting as she battled the physical defense of Milton-Jones. Allie Quigley had 10 points for the Sky (3-1), who were playing their first game without guard Epiphanny Prince.
Prince, who left the Sky to play with the Russian national team this month, sprained her right ankle while playing in an exhibition game against China on Thursday night. Initial X-rays on the ankle were negative, but Prince was headed back to Chicago to be evaluated by Dr. Lowell Scott Weill Sr., who performed surgery on Prince when she injured the same ankle last June.
"The reality is they were without Prince, who is a big part of their team," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. "Every moment they will evolve a little bit. They will learn something about their team, just like we had to learn without Sophia (Young) and Bec (Becky Hammon)."
San Antonio is relying heavily on its defense with Young and Hammon both injured.
The Silver Stars held the Sky to 39 percent shooting from the field, forced 14 turnovers and holding Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash to nine points apiece.
"It was definitely a focus in the game, stopping (Delle Done and Fowles), especially with Epiphanny out," San Antonio forward Jayne Appel said. "We are really focusing in right now. It wasn't just us (her and Milton-Jones) down there guarding those two players, our guards were reaching in, too. It was a good overall team effort to stop those two and to get all those rebounds."
Chicago held a 40-36 edge in rebounding, but San Antonio picked up 29 defensive rebounds.
Delle Donne was held to four points on 1-for-3 shooting in the first quarter while struggling to get her shot off against Milton-Jones, who fouled out with two minutes left in the game. The 6-foot-5 rookie adjusted somewhat in the second quarter, driving by the 14-year veteran and the 240-pound Adams to finish the first half with 11 points.
"From start to finish, they played much tougher than us," Delle Donne said. "They took us out of what we wanted to do offensively and then defensively we really came up short as a team. We weren't talking enough; we weren't on the help side. It's just the little things that we need to do on defense."
The Sky failed to score in the opening 4 1/2 minutes of the second half, much to coach Pokey Chatman's discontent. Chatman spent the opening minutes continually yelling for Delle Donne to shoot and saying, "We talked about this at halftime."
The Silver Stars didn't have the same troubles with the speedy Robinson setting up the offense.
She threaded a pass from one free-throw line to the other between the outstretched arms of Delle Donne and Fowles, giving Milton-Jones an open layup and San Antonio a 54-38 lead.
"As a point guard she's leading us," Perkins said. "She's doing everything. If she has to score, she's scoring. She gets to the basket, finding the open man and that's what we need out of her. She's our leader as she goes, we go."
Quigley's jumper with 5:39 broke the Sky's drought, cutting the Silver Stars' lead to 54-40.
Chicago pulled within seven points on three occasions early in the final quarter, but could not come any closer.
"They were aggressive from the beginning of the game on both ends of the floor," Chatman said. "They set the tone, and we were fighting to get back into it. When we did finally show a little bit of toughness, we cut it to seven and forced a timeout, but we never could get over the hump."
Johnson's 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the third quarter gave San Antonio its largest lead at 66-49.
Perkins' passed the 3,000-point mark with a 20-foot jumper that gave San Antonio a 75-66 lead with 6 minutes remaining. The Silver Stars acknowledged the milestone during a timeout, drawing a huge roar from the crowd that caught Perkins by surprise.
"I don't even really pay attention to the Jumbotron that much when I'm out there," she said. "We were just trying to focus on finishing. I couldn't see it and I was like, 'What's going on? What's going on?' When I heard it, it was an honor."