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The path to the playoffs for the Chicago Sky

1 month agoKarli Bell

Edit: This story has been updated with playoff clinches and eliminations.

The Chicago Sky (14-21) found a way to stay in playoff contention over the last five games, going 2-3 with both wins coming over the Seattle Storm. 

With those two wins, the Sky have kept the push towards the postseason alive while also knocking the Storm out of the race.

The WNBA standings sit as follows:

  1. Las Vegas Aces – clinched
  2. New York Liberty – clinched 
  3. Connecticut Sun – clinched
  4. Dallas Wings – clinched
  5. Minnesota Lynx – clinched
  6. Washington Mystics – clinched
  7. Atlanta Dream 
  8. Los Angeles Sparks
  9. Chicago Sky
  10. Indiana Fever – eliminated
  11. Seattle Storm – eliminated
  12. Phoenix Mercury – eliminated

If the regular season were to end right now, the Sky’s season would also be over.

As a refresher, 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.

Sparking a Tuesday focus

The Sky have just 5 games left in the season with all eyes on Tuesday’s road game against the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks found a way to get hot at the right time with a 6-game winning streak – including an upset win over the Aces – while battling the injury bug. 

Speaking of injuries, Alanna Smith left Sunday’s game due to concussion protocol and will not be available for Tuesday’s game for Chicago.

The Sky have the series lead on the Sparks this season, 2-1, with Chicago taking two straight back in June. A win for Chicago on Tuesday would give the Sky the series and the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.

Now a loss for Chicago would put the season series at 2-2. What’s the next step to break the tie? The team with the better winning percentage against teams with a record of .500 or better would punch their ticket to the postseason.

A loss to the Sparks also means that the Sky then have to start relying on other teams to help them make a run to the postseason, something Chicago has avoided thus far in the last few weeks of the regular season.

“You have to play perfect,” Elizabeth Williams said after the 79-73 loss to Connecticut on Aug. 20. “You can’t have careless turnovers, and you can’t foul. I think we understand the urgency that we need, especially after LA won yesterday, but we’re still in control of our own destiny.”

These two teams haven’t seen each other since Chicago’s 86-78 win on June 30, and both teams have had their fair share of adversity and changes. The Sparks series was the last series James Wade coached, and the Sparks were fairly healthy at that time.

Courtney Williams has put up big numbers against the Sparks, including racking up her first career triple double against LA. In the one loss to the Sparks, Williams was held below her average in points, rebounds and assists. Keep the offense running through Williams, and the outcome should end in the win column for the Sky.

Outlook past Los Angeles

After the Sparks contest, the Sky wrap up the season with a tough set of four games, starting with a Sunday home matchup against the Liberty. New York has had their number on the season with the 2-1 series lead.

After New York, it’s a road game against the Indiana Fever who have found a way to stay alive in the playoff race, riding a 3-game winning streak. While the Sky have the 2-1 series lead, it’s not a game they can overlook in the final week of the season.

The Sky wrap up their home slate against the Minnesota Lynx before ending the season on the road against the Connecticut Sun. The Sky have split with the Lynx (1-1) while Connecticut holds the series over Chicago, 3-0.

For the Sky to make their journey much easier, they need to first tackle Los Angeles. A win over LA gives the Sky a breath of relief, but they can’t get too comfortable. After Los Angeles, the Sky should aim to close out the season going at least 2-2, aiming to get wins over Indiana and Minnesota. If they can pull off an upset over New York, the path to the postseason should be fairly open.

“This was a great one for us momentum wise, but us being down, having to figure it out with that in-game adversity, really having to fight back and having to take it possession by possession not trying to get it all in one,” Kahleah Copper said after Sunday’s 90-85 win over Seattle. “Even when the shots were missed, you look at our body language, you look at everything; it’s all next play mentality. That’s what you want to see with this playoff push for us, because we know how these games are going to go from here on out.”

Stats and Notes

  • Marina Mabrey reached 400 career assists vs. ATL and 250 career made three-pointers vs. LV
  • Alanna Smith reached 100 career offensive rebounds vs. ATL
  • Kahleah Copper reached 1,000 career made field goals vs. ATL and 700 career defensive rebounds vs. SEA (8/27)
  • Dana Evans reached 500 career points vs. SEA (8/22)
  • Emre Vatansever won his first coach’s challenge vs. SEA (8/27)

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