May 31, 2022 

Bright spots abound for Chicago Sky despite loss to Las Vegas Aces

Chicago is thriving in transition

CHICAGO — “All hail Las Vegas.” Those were the words Chicago Sky head coach/general manager James Wade said on the way out of his postgame press conference after his team’s late comeback efforts against the Las Vegas Aces fell short on May 28.

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The Sky were down 18 points in the third quarter against the WNBA’s top team (in the standings) but whittled their deficit down to four points with 36 seconds left in regulation. Chicago ended up losing 83-76. However, there were positive trends in its past two games it can continue to build upon moving forward.

First off, the Sky aren’t going to consistently shoot 5-for-31 from three-point range like they did against the Aces. Las Vegas essentially dared Chicago to shoot from beyond the arc the entire game, a strategy that worked in practice but might not when these two teams play each other again in three weeks. Only six other teams in WNBA history have made no more than five three-pointers and attempted 30 or more shots from long-range in one game.

Team (Year) 3-point Stats
Phoenix Mercury (2007) 5-31 (16.1%)
San Antonio Silver Stars (2012) 5-30 (16.7%)
New York Liberty (2020) 5-35 (14.2%)
Dallas Wings (2020) 4-30 (13.3%)
New York Liberty (2020) 4-35 (11.4%)
Washington Mystics (2021) 4-30 (13.3%)
Chicago Sky (2022) 5-31 (16.1%)
Data provided by Across the Timeline’s Database

This team has too many players who can knock down shots from beyond the arc to repeat performances like this–especially a player like Allie Quigley. Since she became an all-star in 2017, the sharpshooter has only had three games where she has shot less than 11% from the field. Quigley struggled against Las Vegas (she finished the day going 10% from the field) but her outing last game was abnormal. She had one of her best shooting seasons in 2021 and her track record as one of the most lethal half court scorers in the WNBA gives her the benefit of the doubt this early in the season.

Perhaps the most encouraging development for Chicago is Azurá Stevens’ aggressiveness on the offensive end. According to Synergy Sports Tech, the 6-foot-6 center took 53 spot up attempts in 2021. Through seven games, Stevens has already attempted 31 shots spotting up. She has been more comfortable extending her range. Perhaps that can be attributed to being back to full health and Wade not having to worry about her being on a minutes restriction. Whatever it is, the luxury of having her come of the bench has been on full display since Stevens was shifted there upon Kahleah Copper‘s return.

Chicago should keep shooting from that level of the floor as long as it gets the same looks it did versus the Aces.

“I think we got good looks,” Wade said after the game vs. Las Vegas. “We’ll be better.”

One of the most encouraging signs for Chicago was getting back to its bread and butter: getting out on the break. That is largely due to Copper being back in the lineup, who terrorized teams in transition last year. The difference with her in the rotation opposed to what the Sky look like without her has been vast.

Year Seconds per possession after DREB (rank)
2019 10.9 (2nd)
2020 11.4 (3rd)
2021 11.0 (1st)
2022 (through four games) 12.7 (12th)
Stats provided by Inpredictable’s database

In the three games Copper has been back with the Sky, that number has jumped to 10.4 second per possession after a defensive rebound. She simply changes the way the Sky are able to play with her quickness and explosive first step. Chicago on the season is eighth in fast break points per game (9.9) but is first in the league in that category over the last two games (16.5). Wreaking havoc in transition and generating early offense is what has made the Sky successful under Wade. By swapping Stevens for Copper, they have been able to do just that.

Chicago is set to face the Phoenix Mercury Tuesday looking to get back on track. Wade urged the media to keep touting the 8-1 Aces. He knows what his team’s ceiling is and what the potential of it come playoff time — or even sooner.

The best team,” Wade said when Las Vegas was referred to as one of the best teams in the league. “The best team in the league. Keep that narrative all year. I hear y’all. They are the best team in the league. Keep that shit. I ain’t going to forget it.”

Written by James Kay

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