May 17, 2021
Chicago starts with a win, but more work to do
Questions about execution remain for Sky
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On its face, the Chicago Sky’s 70-56 win over the Washington Mystics was a statement by a club that’s been plain about its championship ambitions.
Candace Parker showed no hesitation in her Chicago debut, hitting her first four shots and finishing with 16 points, eight boards, four assists and three blocks.
“Yeah, she should be the story,” head coach and GM James Wade said in his postgame interview.
But Parker didn’t do it alone. Kahleah Copper’s star continues to rise, as she led the team in scoring with 19 points, pulled down eight rebounds herself and went to the free throw line seven times. She and Parker tallied half of Chicago’s 22 field goals. After the game, Parker joked she was afraid Copper’s speed would get her a call from the U.S. Olympic committee, but not for the basketball team.
Chicago also gained their first win in the District of Columbia since 2016 and just their third since the Elena Delle Donne trade. The 56 points scored by Washington was the lowest for a Sky opponent in eight seasons.
Yet, the win was far from a comfortable victory. The Sky played unevenly throughout the game, particularly after halftime. The Mystics swarmed Parker when she tried to operate in the high post, disrupting handoffs and forcing the Sky into 14 turnovers. Chicago didn’t chart a third-quarter bucket until 88 seconds were left in the period. Stefanie Dolson finished just 1-for-8 from the field, and had to sub out early in the first quarter after Theresa Plaisance got going at her expense defensively.
Chicago was notorious for allowing teams back into games last season, and while Wade didn’t directly address the second half difficulties, he did say the team wanted to find “more fluidity in what we do and execute a little bit better, as far as getting out on the breaks.”
When Parker was asked about the third quarter struggles, she said, “I myself will take responsibility for that. We can’t let up, it doesn’t matter what the score is. We say all those goals that we have, and in a different situation, different time, that could cost us the game.”
As for the turnovers, Wade attributed it to the team not quite being used to each other and the speed of players like Diamond DeShields and Copper. He said, “People don’t realize how fast we are until you actually put them together. To see Diamond and Kah get on breaks, sometimes we misread it and threw it out of bounds sometimes. I think it’ll be cleaner a little bit later, but we’ll watch it and we’ll fix it and we’ll work on it.”
He did not talk about the 10 steals Washington piled up, but it should be a point of emphasis for them going into their next game against Atlanta. The Dream lost their opener to Connecticut, as they were overwhelmed by Jonquel Jones, but they turned Connecticut over 20 times and totaled 14 steals. The Dream had to utilize a small lineup with Cheyenne Parker in COVID protocol, and you can count on them to hawk the ball when it stops in the halfcourt. It’ll be interesting to see how they prepare, if the offense focuses on Candace as a playmaker or scorer primarily, or if Courtney Vandersloot takes over the job of shot creation.
It’s early in the season and the Sky have four days to clean up their mistakes. However, a repeat of Saturday will only generate more questions, questions a championship contender must answer quickly.