September 14, 2020 

Can Chicago get back to playing Sky basketball in the playoffs?

The Sky enter the postseason with some clear goals

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PALMETTO, FL – AUGUST 14: Kahleah Cooper #2 of the Chicago Sky shoots the ball against the Connecticut Sun (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the buzzer sounded on the Sky’s 2020 regular season Friday night, playoff prep had already begun.

A four game losing streak heading into their game against the Dallas Wings had highlighted the teams shortcomings: transient defense, inconsistent effort and offensive inefficiencies exacerbated by injuries to Diamond DeShields and Azurá Stevens.

Chicago needed a game to remind themselves what it takes to get a win in this league. Preparation for their winner-take-all deathmatch against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday necessitated that much.

“This was important for us going forward,” Sky guard Kahleah Copper said Friday’s game. “We hadn’t played well the last couple games and we wanted to really put together 40 minutes, and just come out with a win. And just to get back into winning rhythm and just a feeling of being a winner.”

The Sky’s losing streak included two dispiriting games against the Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics, a punchy effort against the Los Angeles Sparks and a blown 17-point lead to the Atlanta Dream.

Chicago point guard Courtney Vandersloot said after the game that it was important for the team to get back to the Chicago Sky basketball from early in the season.

The style of basketball that features a dangerous amount of scorers any given night and throttling efficiency from the floor. Chicago played the part with four players in double digits and by shooting 57.6% from the field.

Forwards Ruthy Hebard and Cheyenne dropped 22 and 23 points, respectively, a welcome sight for Chicago after its four frontcourt players combined for only 18 points and 13 rebounds in their previous game.

“She plays like a poised veteran especially on the offensive end so, no, I was happy with her,” Sky general manager and head coach James Wade said about Hebard after the game. “And, you know, we were pleased with her since the beginning, now she’s getting more and more of an opportunity and she’s just taken a grab on it and a hold of it and flourishing so that’s good.”

A cold night, especially in the early rounds of the cutthroat WNBA playoffs, could send you home packing regardless of the talent you put on the floor. But a hot streak can propel even teams with question marks or injuries deep into the postseason. 

Chicago isn’t hot — they’re 4-6 in their last 10 and their net rating has tanked in the back half of the season— but they’ve at least reminded themselves that they can, at their best, play with any team in the W. 

The Sky have been locked into their match up with Connecticut since last Tuesday. The Sun will be coming in on the same amount of rest, but on a two-game losing streak — an overtime loss to the Phoenix Mercury and a 82-75 loss to a playoff hungry Atlanta Dream team.

Connecticut won’t sweat that second loss too much, since it gave its core some much-needed rest before their extended break. The Sky too will want every minute of rest they can get before Tuesday night.

Fatigue this season has translated into lethargic quarters, bad transition defense and miscues on both sides of the ball for Chicago. The three-day break is a sort of pseudo preseason for these teams to sort things and get healthy. Come Tuesday night, they’ll both be 0-0.

“It means a lot, it’s rewarding,” Copper said about returning to the postseason. “Had a really up and down season, but to have a chance for a new season to start fresh is amazing, exciting.”

Written by Nick Niendorf

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