Sky looking to flip the script as they begin final playoff push
The 2023 and 2021 Chicago Sky seasons have some similarities; both teams had early injuries leading to a long losing streak in June. Both teams sat near the bottom of the standings before the postseason started.
The 2021 Sky found a way to string the last few games together to punch their ticket to the playoffs and the 2023 Chicago Sky are looking to do the same thing.
“I think it’s about tuning ourselves to a winning frequency. A winning vibration,” Marina Mabrey said at Wednesday’s practice.
The Sky (12-18) sit at 8th in the WNBA standings with 10 games left in the season, riding a 3-game losing streak after going 0-2 this weekend against the New York Liberty (89-73) and the Washington Mystics (83-76).
“I think it’s about looking in the mirror and seeing what you can do to help this team, what you need to do and what you’ve been doing,” Dana Evans said at Wednesday’s practice.
Heading into the Commissioner’s Cup break, the Sky know they need to play with a sense of urgency now if they want to stay in the mix for the postseason with the No. 9 Los Angeles Sparks right on their tail.
“That’s what I’m trying to bring even to practice. We missed a box out on one possession [in practice], myself included. I started by saying, ‘That’s on us. Everybody do pushups.’ We all dropped down,” Courtney Williams said. “If I don’t hold myself accountable, how can I expect the rookies to hold themselves accountable? It’s got to start here first.”
Through accountability, the team looks to find consistency on both sides of the ball. The trends all season have been little details pushing the Sky out of games offensively, especially in the third quarter.
In the 6 losses since the All-Star break, the Sky have fewer assists, poor shooting across the floor and a higher turnover rate in the third quarter compared to their 4 wins. While shooting is something that can always have an off night – even in victories – turning the ball over more while dishing out fewer assists is something the Sky can control.
It’s a similar story with first quarters for the Sky. In those 6 losses, there’s less rebounding on both ends as well as shooting just 39.8% from the floor. By crashing the glass offensively, the Sky can create more shooting opportunities and limit the time of possession for their opponents.
However, the Sky’s identity this season and what they’ve preached since training camp is having their offense come from their defense. That’s been lacking since the All-Star break with the Sky’s overall defensive rating of 108.0 has them tied for dead last in the WNBA with the Dallas Wings.
“I feel like [defense] hasn’t been a focus as much as it should be,” Evans said. “I think picking up the ball, being disruptive, and, for me, just being that spark off the bench, I have to really be locked in defensively. I think it’s a big difference when you’re pressuring the ball full court and not letting them get in their sets early, it takes some time off the clock and then just being disruptive with active hands.”
The third quarter defensive numbers support it; in the 4 wins since the All-Star break, the Sky had more steals, points off turnovers and fast break points while also limiting their opponents transitional offense.
“It’s inconsistent. We have to control the things that we can control, like our effort and energy,” Williams said. “At times, we let things that shouldn’t matter dictate how we play the game of basketball, and it shouldn’t. That’s the difference. We have to show up every single game with the same energy as if we’re playing a Dallas or a Las Vegas. I think at times, we just don’t do that.”
With a set of games this weekend against the No. 5 Atlanta Dream and No. 3 Connecticut Sun, the focus is controlling what the team can control and having a different mindset and mental approach to the final stretch of the season.
“For me, I’ve picked and chosen games where ‘Oh yeah. I’m going to score today or actually, I’m going to make someone else better.’ No. What does the team need from you for us to be at our best for these last 10 games?” Mabrey said. “That changes the perspective a bit in the sense of like I’m going to come out here and make one extra play. I’m going to give three more good minutes to my team this week. If everyone gives us three more good minutes, I doubt the outcome is the same as last week.”