Takeaways from the first two weeks of the 2023 Sky season
The Chicago Sky started the 2023 season on the right foot, going 3-1 in their first four games with the one loss being a 71-69 nailbiter to the Washington Mystics on May 26.
The Mystics game also led to the loss of guard Rebekah Gardner and forward Morgan Bertsch, who left the game with foot and ankle injuries, respectively. There’s no timetable set for if or when both players will return.
The Sky are also without forward Isabelle Harrison indefinitely as she underwent meniscus surgery before the season opener. This puts the Sky in position to acquire a hardship exemption player with the roster now below 10 available players.
While those roster questions have yet to be answered before Tuesday’s road game against the Atlanta Dream, the Sky still have much to be happy about in their first four games.
Defense, defense, defense
Chicago Sky head coach James Wade said before the season started that he wanted to be the top defensive team in the WNBA.
That defensive intensity has grown with each game but was shown in full force in the season-opening 77-66 win against the Minnesota Lynx on May 19. The Sky allowed only 3 points in the entire second quarter.
“We were very disruptive,” Wade said after the win. “I thought we were very disciplined, got a lot of deflections, got our hands on a lot of balls. We were able to make them uncomfortable which is what we work on. We were there for each other. We had each other’s backs. We didn’t leave each other out on an island. It trickles down; you have one person putting on pressure and it just goes.”
The Sky rank in the Top 3 in the WNBA in multiple defensive categories, including 2nd in field goal percentage (37.9%), 2nd in field goals attempted (66.0), and 3rd in points allowed (73.5).
Next man up off the bench
Wade has put together three different starting lineups over four games because of the injury bug. Each time, a different player has shown up and shown out, and it was showcased in the 94-88 win over the Dallas Wings on May 28.
The Sky were without Bertsch and Gardner, and Marina Mabrey stepped up to lead the team with 23 points. However, six of the nine available players scored in double digits, including Sika Koné who finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds in her WNBA debut.
“It takes the pressure off any one person feeling like they have to do it all,” Mabrey said after the Dallas win. “I know that my teammates are going to pass to me when I’m open. So, whenever I see someone step up, I’m going to make that pass right away. It just makes it a lot easier to play the game honestly.”
While there are players contributing through the stat sheet, the intangibles are helping the Sky power through tough situations. Dana Evans’ defensive physicality and speed are key contributors and were displayed in the 75-69 win over the Phoenix Mercury on May 21.
“With our team, everybody can score but everybody has a role that we have to play in order for us to be successful,” Kahleah Copper said after the Mercury win. “No, Dana’s not getting the credit on the stat sheet, but she set the tone for us defensively in Minnesota. No, she didn’t hit the shots [against Phoenix], but without her playing as hard as she played defensively, wearing them out, them not wanting to bring the ball up, we get nothing. We don’t have anything.
“So, major credit to you on that,” Copper said to Evans. “I don’t think you understand how you really set the tone defensively for us and what you do for us, because that plays a big role more than shots going in. We know you can do that. Who on our team is going to pick up full court and score?”
“I’m going to do it every time,” Evans responded.
“I don’t think you understand how you really set the tone defensively for us … that plays a role more than shots going in.”— Marquee Sky (@SkyMarquee) May 22, 2023
Kahleah Copper to Dana Evans on her impact so far. pic.twitter.com/QCRz6Pyhga
Chemistry is still cooking
With the roster going through so many changes at the start of the season due to injuries, the offensive chemistry with the team is still on the burner.
Koné joined the team on May 18 off of waivers but didn’t get full practice time until May 27. Mabrey was delayed for rest until May 19 after playing in her Italian league season. Elizabeth Williams missed half of training camp due to concussion protocol.
The unit is still learning how to play together, and it showed in the loss to the Mystics. The Sky finished with a season high 23 turnovers, most of them being off sloppy passes or offensive miscommunication.
“We gave it to them too many times,” Copper said after the loss. “We have to make sure that we get more possessions and not give the ball up. But it’ll come just playing together, getting to know each other and adding chemistry.”
They cut down on turnovers against the Wings with 16, but this is the next point of emphasis for the Sky moving forward.
Stats and notes
- James Wade has gone 3-for-4 in his coach’s challenges
- The Sky set a season high in assists (24) and rebounds (44) vs. Dallas
- Kristine Anigwe reached 100 career rebounds vs. Phoenix
- Elizabeth Williams surpassed Tina Thompson at 14th on the all-time blocks list with 373 vs. Washington
- Alanna Smith notched her first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds vs. Dallas