Can the Chicago Sky (10-16) REALLY be THIS confident?
A retweet from Chicago Sky forward Swin Cash says it all, folks:
"I Guess I Got My Swagger Back#Truth"
In truth, I think Cash was talking about the Sky's new Nike-brand game shoes, but the former WNBA champion may have just been talking about how she's been playing lately. Okay, one big win. three losses in the games since they've been back from the Olympic break.
But it was a doozy, that win. At Allstate Arena last Sunday, battling hard against Naperville native Candace Parker and her LA Sparks (19-8), the Sky were down 10 points at the half, 43-33. Parker was all over the floor, scoring 11 points in the first half, ably assisted by former Sky first-rounder Kristi Tolliver, who ended up with 19 for the game.
The Sky, who trailed much of the first half and were behind by as many as 12 early in the second half, exploded in the third quarter with an 11 point run and never looked back winning 85-74 over the Los Angeles Sparks.
Epiphanny Prince led the Sky with 17 points and dished out a career high nine assists. Courtney Vandersloot shook off first half foul trouble and finished with 15 points -- all in the second half -- and seven assists. Sylvia Fowles recorded 14 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes. Shay Murphy added 13 points off the bench. The Sparks had the game going their way up until 6:14 in the third quarter when the Sky made their run. Vandersloot hit a running layup, followed by a 3-pointer. After a Murphy layup and another Vandersloot jumper, Swin Cash tied the game with yet another layup. The game remained close through the third before the Sky closed the game with a 25-18 fourth quarter.
But let's let Sky coach Pokey Chatman tell the story:
"I thought Swin set the tone early before she got buckets because she went from screen to screen… It became infectious. On the reverse of the basketball, we were penetrating, getting the switch, penetrating and kicking. I thought Shay Murphy came off the bench with a lift (scoring) in double figures.”
“I thought we defended the floor," said Chapman. "That made the biggest difference. This is a team that’s second in the league in scoring. They average 83, 84 points a game. On the other end of the floor, we had six people in double figures and 25 assists on 32 baskets, so we shared the basketball. We really took advantage and stretched the court, scored in transition, attacked the basket, and got to the free throw line.
With that timely win...the Sky are talking PLAYOFFS.....
It's time. With eight games left, the Sky are tied with the New York Liberty in the fourth and last playoff spot in WNBA's Eastern Conference.
Coincidentally, they're playing the team I call their 'personal Kryptonite,' the New York Liberty, featuring Chicago native Cappie Poindexter Friday night on the road.
The top four teams from each conference are eligible for the WNBA Playoffs. The WNBA invited the Sky to the party, the first time in mememory that they've come this far. The team has failed to make the playoffs in each of its six seasons. They are the only WNBA team to hold that distinction.
Management, predictably, is delighted. “If you have the opportunity to put playoff tickets on sale at this stage of the season, it means your team is in the mix,” said Adam Fox, Chicago Sky president and CEO. “We are excited to be here, and we look forward to our fans coming out and supporting us as we go for our first WNBA title.”
Final seeding, pairings, dates and times will not be determined until the conclusion of the regular season on Sept. 23.
It'll be a challenge for the Sky to get there. Chatman said of their Friday night battle with the Liberty, “We just have to lock in and focus and be ready for whatever they throw at us. We need to look at some of the things we did well and some of the things we didn’t do well and go from there.”
The Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals will be played in a best-of-three format. The lower seed in each of these series hosts the second game, and the higher seed is home for the first and third games.
In the Conference Semifinals, the first-place team in each conference plays the fourth-place team, and the second-place and third-place teams play each other with the winners advancing to the Conference Finals. The winners of the Conference Finals meet in the WNBA Finals.
The WNBA Finals is a best-of-five series. In the WNBA Finals, the team with the better record hosts games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary) and is on the road for games 3 and 4 (if necessary).
The next opportunity to see the Sky at Allstate Arena is Tuesday, Sept. 11, when the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and their trio of stars Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen come to Chicago.
These games are crucial, to say the least. The Sky lost eight in a row earlier this season and lost a 7-3 start in a costly swan dive that began the game after guard Epiphanny Prince went down with a broken foot. Prince is their go-to on making crucial plays during games. She can do anything--block, guard, pass, shoot free-throws and rebound. Before her injury, she handled the WNBA in shooting, averaging a WNBA-best 19 points per game. After her injury in June, they won just three games--through Sunday.
To make the playoffs, the Sky must get through the Lynx, the Connecticut Sun, the Sparks in LA, the Seattle Storm, and the Atlanta Dream. That's a juggernaut of talent.
But let's get Chatman's take on her roster of talent:
"We know what we are capable of, we go up against each other every day in practice. It was just good to go out there and get a win. It felt good to go out there and get a win where everyone contributed and excelled.”