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Sky Notebook: The dramatic first chapter in budding rivalry with Caitlin Clark, Fever

3 weeks agoKarli Bell

The Chicago Sky (3-4) went 1-2 on the week and sit at 8th in the WNBA standings after a bunch of matchups with top rookies Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, and Rickea Jackson.

The Sky also saw the return of No. 3 overall draft pick Kamilla Cardoso after she was sidelined in the preseason with a shoulder injury. She made her WNBA debut on the road against the Indiana Fever Saturday.

Final seconds loss to Fever

The matchup between Chicago and Indiana on June 1 was the most anticipated WNBA game of the early season with Cardoso’s return from injury and the first pro battle between college rivals Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark. In the first Commissioner’s Cup game of the season, Chicago lost 71-70 in the final seconds at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indiana.

The Sky left 6 points at the free throw line while also shooting just 16.7% from the arc and had 16 turnovers as a team. The Sky put themselves in a position to win in the final two minutes by going on a 9-4 run, but they couldn’t deliver at the charity stripe with Marina Mabrey going 1-for-2 at the line as the clock ticked down.

“We gave ourselves an opportunity,” head coach Teresa Weatherspoon said after the loss. “There was a level of intensity that we stepped up with and gave us an opportunity. We always talk about the energy that we’re given to get out of a hole, as well as you’re playing defensively to get out of a hole, as well as you executing offensively to get out of a hole. That has to be from the very beginning the ball goes up.”

Cardoso put up 11 points and 6 rebounds in just 17 minutes of play in her WNBA debut. Cardoso will continue to be on a minutes restriction as she works back from her shoulder injury.

“It felt very good. I was just excited to be out there. Just another basketball game and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life so I was just excited to be out there with my teammates,” Cardoso said after the game.

Chennedy Carter’s 19 points led all Sky scorers and were her most since July of 2022. The energy and emotions leading into a budding regional rivalry were shown when Carter made what was originally called an away-from-the-play foul on Clark in the final seconds of the third quarter. That foul led to Clark getting and making a free throw, giving the Fever a 5-point lead and a momentum shift entering into the final 10 minutes of play.

The foul was later upgraded to a flagrant 1-violation by the WNBA after the game.

First home win of the season

The Sky welcomed in a couple of first round draft picks in Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson when they took on the Los Angeles Sparks on May 30. The Sky’s pesky and physical defensive identity was on full display as they racked up 13 steals in the 83-73 win.

“Coach Spoon is putting us in the right positions to be aggressive,” Mabrey said after the win. “If you’re not in the right positions defensively, you can’t make steals. You can’t make deflections and stuff like that…I still think we can be more consistent with it though. I feel like we’ve been good defensively, but we haven’t been great.”

Third quarter issues have become a trend for the Sky. Chicago was up by 21 as the second half began against Los Angeles, but they recorded 6 of their total 14 turnovers in the quarter, allowing Dearica Hamby and the Sparks to cut their lead to single digits.

“We have to be better coming out in the third quarter,” Weatherspoon said after the game. “We always talk about it being 0-0. It’s 0-0 now and we have to put our foot on the pedal and go. Unfortunately we had a bad start again in the third quarter, but what I like about my group is the resiliency. Us finding a way to get those stops and regain the momentum, that was big for us.”

Elizabeth Williams had her way in the paint, getting her second double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds along with 4 blocks and 4 steals. That double-double made Williams the first person in WNBA history to have multiple games with 10+ points, 10+ rebounds, 4+ steals and 4+ blocks in a single season.

“She does all the little things right,” Weatherspoon said. “When you have a player that does all the little things right, great things are going to happen. She has no problem doing anything that’s asked of her. She anchors us defensively with key blocks, key rebounds, and then she’s running the floor, setting screens, getting people open, and then she scores. That’s huge for us.”

Turnover problems vs. Seattle

After dropping the home opener, Chicago was looking to find their footing on their home court at Wintrust, but Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd and the Seattle Storm had other plans as they handed the Sky their second straight loss on May 28, 77-68.

The Sky put up a season-high 22 turnovers which Seattle turned into 17 points. The size that Cardoso brought to battle with Aaliyah Boston in Indiana was sorely missed in the paint days earlier as the Storm put up 40 of their 77 points in the paint.

“We turned the ball over a lot, and when you’re playing an experienced team, they take advantage of us,” Williams said after the loss. “Some of it was indecision and when you’re indecisive and not aggressive, good things don’t typically happen. For us, it’s just playing with confidence, learning each other of course, but just being a little more decisive.”

Angel Reese picked up her first career double-double in the contest with 11 points and 12 rebounds. While she wished the outcome for her team was different, Reese’s eyes are on continuing to improve her game as her career progresses through the WNBA.

“It would feel better if we got a win,” Reese said before the Los Angeles game. “Maybe give myself a little bit of grace for it, but I’m happy obviously. There’s much more room for improvement, but I’m excited to be where I am right now. Just enjoying the moment”

Stats and Notes

  • Angel Reese set a career high with 13 rebounds vs. IND
  • Elizabeth Williams tied for 10th on the all-time blocks list with 443 vs. IND
  • Dana Evans set a career high with 5 steals vs. LA
  • Diamond DeShields passed Elena Delle Donne for 6th on the Sky’s all-time three-point attempts with 387 vs. SEA

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