Sky headed to second round of WNBA playoffs for second time in three years after beating Wings 81-64
Kahleah Copper finished with a game-high 23 points. Candace Parker had a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds Thursday.
Sky coach James Wade was confident his team’s playoff experience would be the difference-maker Thursday against the Wings.
Wings coach Vickie Johnson was confident her team’s inexperience wouldn’t matter.
Ultimately, the Sky got out to an early lead and didn’t lose their composure when the Wings cut into it in the third quarter. It was a notable difference from their previous two trips to the playoffs that only could be credited to experience.
That experience helped the Sky earn an 81-64 victory at Wintrust Arena that moved them into the second round of the WNBA playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.
‘‘Nobody got panicked, even when the Wings] came within five points [in the third quarter],’’ Wade said.
There’s no ignoring how unevenly the Sky have played all season, especially since the Olympic break. There was no telling which team would show up. But any remnants of the Sky that lacked energy, focus and consistency were gone.
Kahleah Copper scored a game-high 23 points. Candace Parker had a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds and added seven assists. In the process, Parker passed Seimone Augustus (901) to become the WNBA’s sixth all-time scorer in the playoffs with 904 points.
Courtney Vandersloot added 17 points and six assists and Allie Quigley 15 points.
‘‘We’ve toed the water of greatness so much this year, and we haven’t quite gotten over it,’’ Parker said. ‘‘We’re a team that does things when we have to. Hopefully, we realize we still have to.’’
Controlling the pace, containing the Wings’ scoring threats beyond Arike Ogunbowale and rebounding were critical to the Sky’s victory. They out rebounded the Wings 47-35, which allowed them to get out in transition, and held Allisha Gray and Moriah Jefferson to nine points each. Ogunbowale finished with a team-high 22 points.
The Wings’ Satou Sabally was listed as questionable before the game. She has been battling an Achilles injury but played 22 minutes and scored 12 points.
‘‘We were able to shut down what their guards wanted to do,’’ Wade said. ‘‘They weren’t able to move as freely as they would have liked.’’
Ticha Penicheiro, DeMar DeRozan, Jabari Parker, Coby White and Patrick Williams were among those at Wintrust Arena for the game. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was also there.
The Sky made the playoffs for the third consecutive season, while the Wings were making their first postseason appearance since 2018. Vandersloot, Quigley and Parker, who have made a combined 27 trips to the playoffs, played a significant role in the Sky’s ability to maintain composure when the Wings cut into their lead.
With two minutes left, Vandersloot made two free throws to extend the Sky’s lead to 10. She added seven more points after that to seal the Sky’s victory.
‘‘Things opened up for me late,’’ Vandersloot said. ‘‘They’re always harping on me to be aggressive and look for mine. I showed them that I could do that.’’
The Mercury, who were playing without Diana Taurasi, defeated the Liberty in the 83-82 in the other first-round matchup. That result means the Sky will visit the Lynx in a second-round game at 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.