September 22, 2021 

‘We’re not waiting on development’: Dallas Wings seek breakthrough win

Matchup with Chicago Sky offers big opportunity

The Dallas Wings had a rollercoaster regular season. They went 3-3 in their last six games, but the team was still able to control their own destiny and secure the seventh seed for the 2021 playoffs. Dallas is headed to Chicago to take on the Sky in the single-elimination first round.

It does not matter that Dallas won the season series against Chicago 2-1 in the season series. It certainly does not matter that forward Isabelle Harrison and guard Marina Mabrey tied their career highs in scoring against the Sky.

However, Wings’ first-year head coach Vickie Johnson told the media, after ending the regular season with a victory over the Los Angeles Sparks, that the playoffs are a different season and her team is ready to win now. 

“We’re not waiting on development,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We’re not waiting three years two years or whatever, we’re good enough to win now. I’ve been in this league for 25 years, and when I saw this team in person and being here, I knew that it was gonna be something special, you know, and that’s why I said fifth or sixth spot for us, because I knew the capability that we had as a team, and what we could do on both sides of the basketball.”

The Sky and the Wings are mirror images in many ways — capable of scoring in bunches, they both have players that create their own shot and make plays. In a single-elimination game, the Wings cannot afford to trade baskets with the Sky. In order for the Wings to secure their first playoff victory in the organization’s history, the difference will be defense. Mabrey told the media postgame on Sunday that Dallas is hard to score on when they play shell defense. 

“Chicago is a great team, so controlling that paint on [Courtney Vandersloot] because she is a great passer, and then defending the three point line. They’re great shooters and I feel like when you play team defense we’re hard to score on,” the three-year guard said.

In each of the three matchups in the regular season, there were three different starting lineups. If all players are healthy and ready to go, there could be a starting lineup that has not been seen against the Sky before.

Johnson said she does not know what the lineup is going to look like. The team has been dealing with injuries recently. Forward Satou Sabally played one game after missing six weeks nursing an Achilles injury. Harrison missed two weeks after being placed in the Health and Safety Protocols after testing positive for Covid-19 September 4 and guard Moriah Jefferson has been playing limited minutes throughout the season.

“We don’t know how Satou will feel when she wakes up tomorrow,” Johnson said. “We don’t know how MJ is going to feel so it’s just we just go with the flow. And, and I asked each individual to be ready to play basketball.”

The Wings have had a hard time closing out games throughout the regular season, but that’s changed lately. In the game they needed to win against New York to secure they playoff spot on Sept. 11, the Wings got a key defensive stop late to close it out. In their final regular season game against the Sparks on Sunday, they were able to finish and win the game when it came down to the last few minutes. Harrison said the team needed that momentum and positivity going into Chicago.

“I think our focus is just totally different now, we’re going to be able to just lock in and focus, and just take care of the task at hand,” Harrison said. “We’re just gonna play all out I just to hear the conversations that we have. We’re gonna put everything out there so our mindset is just to go crazy for us.”

The Chicago Sky have more playoff experience but they have had a rollercoaster season as well. They finished the regular season just winning two of their last six games, but like Johnson said the playoffs are a new season. The records are 0-0. In single-elimination game the Wings will have to play their best 40 minutes and if the whole team is available, even if they can only be productive for a few minutes, the youngest team in the league may be able to upset the Sky.

The waiting, the Wings hope, ends Thursday.

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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