Sky clinch playoff berth, beat Aces 92-84
Playing at Wintrust Arena has not been easy for the Sky this season, but Sunday evening in front of 5,210 fans, they clinched a playoff berth after beating the Las Vegas Aces 92-84.
The reasons for their 5-8 home record include injury, player absences because of international commitments and an inability to finish close games. After returning from a five-game road trip that ended with a 90-83 loss to the Aces, the Sky wanted this one for their fans.
Their 72% shooting percentage well into the second quarter was a huge improvement from Thursday, and they never let up.
The Sky (15-14) finished shooting 50.7% with 30 team assists.
“This season has been difficult,” Candace Parker said. “You never take for granted clinching a playoff spot in the league that we play in. Obviously, we have our work cut out for us but today we’ll celebrate that.”
When the Sky signed Parker in February, they became instant championship contenders. Courtney Vandersloot’s court vision, Allie Quigley’s knockdown shooting, and Kahleah Copper and Diamond DeShields lethal defensive skills were a recipe for success.
Yet, it wasn’t as simple as adding Parker to the mix. The Sky’s seven-game skid followed by a seven-game winning streak was the start of a season that has been marked by inconsistencies and an inability to play complete games.
But on Sunday, the Sky looked like a team that could play for a title.
Quigley led the way with 22 points on 61.5% shooting. Parker had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. DeShields finished with 17 points and Copper added 14.
The Sky attacked the rim early, an aspect of their game in which they struggled Thursday night. On Sunday, a priority was placed on being aggressive and not settling for jump shots, and it proved to be the difference-maker.
“We had to come out and have more pride about the way we play,” DeShields said. “Offensively, we had to play to our strengths which was getting downhill.”
Defensively the Sky held the Aces to 41% shooting and 38.5% from three-point range. Reigning WNBA MVP A’Ja Wilson was held to 18 points on 33.3% shooting. The Aces were without Dearica Hamby (ankle) and Liz Cambage (health and safety protocols).
Since the Olympic break, the Sky have gone 5-4, indicative of the inconsistency that they’ve struggled with all season. They followed their most dominant win of the season, beating the Seattle Storm by 32, with a 20-point loss to the Phoenix Mercury, who swept them this year.
The Sky will take the next couple of days off before getting back in the gym in preparation for their final three games of the season, all at home, against the Washington Mystics, Aces and Indiana Fever.
The focus needs to remain on playing through offensive lulls by getting to the rim and finishing defensive possessions. An increased amount of practice time will help with that.
“My main focus is building on this win,” coach James Wade said. “To build on the team chemistry, having everybody healthy and available. You saw every player that played tonight was important.”