Time and again, Sky respond to the challenge at hand
The defending WNBA champions knew coming into the playoffs that the target was on their backs. Trying to repeat as WNBA champions is a tough task, seeing as it hasn’t been done since the league adopted the best-of-5 series format back in 2005.
Even in 2022, Chicago needed to adapt to yet another change in playoff formats with the WNBA going away from single-elimination games and switching into a more traditional feel of a bracket.
The format change has led to the Chicago Sky playing from behind in each series. First, they dropped game 1 against the New York Liberty in the First Round and yet again in the Semi-Finals against the Connecticut Sun.
“I don’t think we had the right mentality in Game 1,” Candace Parker said after the Game 2 win against the Sun. “I think we were ‘lax in shootaround, film and that whole day. I didn’t think we had the right mentality, and it showed.”
This is something that fans didn’t see last year in the playoffs; the Sky were always the ones to throw the first punch. However, you did see it in the 2021 regular season with the Sky having a 7-game losing streak as well as some spurts of back-to-back losses.
“That’s been our MO the past two years is that we always find a way to bounce back,” Azurá Stevens said after the Game 1 loss to the Sun.
They took that approach into the regular season of 2022, not losing back-to-back games until the final week of the season in the 35th game of a 36-game season. It’s shown so far in the playoffs with the Sky responding every time after the Game 1 loss.
“I think that this team has so much pride though that when we do get smacked, we respond,” Kahleah Copper said at practice. “We’re right in that middle space where we’re trying to figure out how can we start this well, how can we take care of business from the start and stop trying to rely on experience or us just knowing that we’re never out of games.”
That’s been shown with breakout performances from the team as a whole in Game 2 in both the First Round and Semi-Finals.
In Game 2 against New York, Chicago silenced the Liberty with a resounding 38-point victory. Against Connecticut, the Sky led by as much as 20 and sealed the 85-77 win.
Now in the Semi-Finals with the series tied at 1 apiece, it’s like a new best-of-3 series, and that’s how the team is approaching it.
“I want our mentality to be better after a win,” Parker said. “I think that’s where I’m challenging our team. We grinded last season, and we showed what we were made of, but when we make things easier for ourselves, let’s not take our foot off the pedal. I think after a win is when we need to be even more focused and come ready to play, come focused and come with the right mentality.
“I don’t like when we turn it on and turn it off, even throughout games with runs and quarters. In the playoffs, you don’t have time to relax. I think that’s what we hopefully learned. It’s a best of 3 series. We got to treat the next game like it’s game 1.”
Game 3 is set for Sunday, Sept. 4 in Connecticut. Tip time is set for 12 p.m. CT on ESPN2.