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Sky still battling for playoff position with road-heavy August on the horizon

12 months agoKarli Bell

The Chicago Sky (12-16) sit at 8th in the WNBA standings after going 2-1 over the last 5 days with all eyes on a very important weekend set of road games.

The Sky hit the road for a stretch of 4 road games with the first two coming against No. 2-ranked New York Liberty and an injury-riddled No. 7 Washington Mystics. For the Sky to stay in contention for a playoff spot and have a bit more wiggle room, they need to at least split the weekend between the Liberty and the Mystics. If not, the Sky’s journey to the postseason could come down to the wire with just 13 games left.

The WNBA’s postseason is set up as more of a traditional bracket, which was introduced for the first time in 2022. The top eight teams overall will make the playoffs. The postseason will consist of three rounds. The first round will be a best-of-three and then will transform into a best-of-five series for the semi-finals and the WNBA Finals. 

The higher seed will host the first two games for the first round. The semi-finals and Finals series will stay unchanged with the higher seeds hosting the first two games and a fifth game if needed.

In roster news, Sika Koné returned to Chicago after participating overseas in Afrobasket where she earned a spot on the All-Star team after her balanced stat line of 11.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 1.6 apg over the 5 game tournament. 

Season sweep of the Wings

The Sky looked to continue the hot offense from the 104-84 win over Phoenix into a critical weekend road 2-game series against the No. 5 Dallas Wings.

104 seems to be the magic number as the Sky swept the Wings over the weekend and on the season with Friday’s 104-89 win and Sunday’s 104-96 win. This was the first time in franchise history that the Sky put up three consecutive 100+ games. The 312 combined points over the three wins are also the highest scoring stretch in franchise history.

“I just wanted to share the moment with my players, because I’m proud of them,” head coach Emre Vatansever said after Friday’s game. “They executed everything very, very well. Their effort has to be acknowledged. They put their heart and tears and everything on the court today to get this victory.” 

In Friday’s game, it was just a great shooting night for the Sky across the board with four starters in double-digits with Courtney Williams and Kahleah Copper putting up a combined 50 points with 25 apiece. The Sky knocked down a season-high 14 three-pointers while shooting 55.1% from the floor.

“From the jump, we came out like a bullet,” Alanna Smith said after the game. “It’s really, really important to start with your foot on their neck instead of trying to scrape back and come back from a deficit. Just a punch first action.”

Fans saw an aggressive Sky team with Copper attacking the basket more and Williams having a hot hand from the arc. Marina Mabrey put up 16 points in her first game back in Dallas, and she doubled that in Sunday’s win.

While it was the starters who contributed more in Friday’s game, it was the bench’s time to shine on Sunday, especially Dana Evans and Robyn Parks putting up a combined 25 points with 14 and 11 respectively.

“These games are crucial for us,” Mabrey said after Sunday’s win. “We dropped some that we didn’t want to drop, and it hurt us. Now, we’re looking at the standings, and there’s some games we need to win. We need to get tougher. We’ve got to understand that sometimes it’s going to be a battle, and we’ve got to come out on top some of these times.”

Lynx loss 

With that series sweep, all eyes were on a rare August home game against No. 6 Minnesota Lynx who had just a half game lead on the Sky in the playoff race coming into the matchup.

Minnesota took control in the first quarter and led the rest of the way, handing Chicago the 88-79 loss and taking a 1.5-game lead over the Sky.

The free throw discrepancy reared its head again with the Sky seeing the charity stripe just 5 times compared to Minnesota’s 26 trips to the free throw line. 

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” Vatansever said after the loss. “We talked about it on the bench that we wanted to be more aggressive. Somehow, we just…we could have attacked more.”

“In the first quarter, we were a step slow to everything,” Copper said. “Rotations, communicating defensively, even offensively early. That first quarter we were just a step slow. Can’t tell you why.”

The Sky stayed in the game thanks to the Williams & WIlliams law firm in Courtney and Elizabeth; Elizabeth was a rebound shy of a double-double with 9 rebounds and a season-high 18 points while fourth quarter Courtney showed up at Wintrust, scoring 9 of her 12 points in the final 10 minutes.

With a road-heavy August filled with a handful of must-win games, the Sky are aware of how important this next week or so is if they want to continue to make a playoff push.

“It’s no secret. Looking at the standings, we talked about it in our huddle coming into the game about playoffs, where we want to finish and how tight it is 6 through 8,” Copper said.  “Just moving forward, we have to continue to put the emphasis on those last couple spots in the playoffs and how important some of the games are if we want to finish where we want to finish. Still just drilling it in our heads and reminding ourselves before the game, throughout the game, and just to be able to have that mindset of what we want to do at the end of the season.”

Stats and Notes

  • Courtney Williams and Kahleah Copper are the first pair of teammates in franchise history to each have 25+ points and 4+ made threes in the same game vs. DAL (8/4)
  • Elizabeth Williams set a new career high of steals with 5 vs. DAL (8/6)
  • Marina Mabrey reached 450 career rebounds vs. MIN
  • Dana Evans passed 150 career assists vs. MIN

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