Sky facing tough stretch as they try to snap skid

Of the Sky’s nine games leading into the All-Star break, six are against teams in the top five of the standings. The other three are against the Dream and Fever, both of whom have beaten the Sky once.

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WASHINGTON — The Sky are mired in a three-game losing streak with no relief in sight.

Of the Sky’s nine games leading into the All-Star break, six are against teams in the top five of the standings. The other three are against the Dream and Fever, both of whom have beaten the Sky once.

Is it time to hit the panic button on Year 1 of the Sky’s rebuild? Not yet, and the reasons begin with what this team has been able to do despite a roster that has had no stability since the season started.

“There are some bright spots here,” Marina Mabrey said after the Sky’s 92-90 loss to the Fever on Thursday. “[We’re] finding chemistry within the players and going with what we have and still trying to find chemistry. We’re missing Kahleah [Copper], and she’s a really good player.”

The Sky’s injury report has been four players deep for three weeks.

Ruthy Hebard is returning from maternity leave. Isabelle Harrison was ruled out for an extended period after surgery to repair her left meniscus before the season began. Rebekah Gardner (foot) and Morgan Bertsch (ankle) were injured against the Mystics on May 26. Gardner’s return, like Harrison’s, isn’t determined, and Bertsch was cleared to return Saturday. Whitney Young grad Khaalia Hillsman, whom coach/general manager James Wade signed to a hardship contract, was released as a result.

Copper was a late addition to the Sky’s injury report ahead of their game against the Fever.

After missing two days of practice for personal reasons, she was designated as questionable and downgraded to out two hours before tipoff. She will be available Sunday against the Mystics.

Wade found no solace in his team’s performance without Copper.

“We don’t coach to get close because Kahleah’s not on the floor,” he said.

Wade’s words indicate that, while there’s no need to sound the alarm yet, the Sky must figure out how to win with what they have to avoid reaching a point of no return.

There were some concerns in the loss Thursday, beginning with the Sky’s energy late. The Fever’s 11-0 run in the fourth quarter visibly deflated the team.

The Sky desperately needed Copper on the court. She’s their unwavering leader, but they need more than her taking over in adverse moments, and not just from a production standpoint.

Mabrey finished with a career-high 36 points and repeatedly has proved her ability to take over games this season. Dana Evans has demonstrated her ability to knock down threes in crucial situations. The Sky need another player who can command the team in a huddle and get it in the right space to close out a game or, as was an issue Thursday, handle poor officiating.

“We talk about mental health,” Wade said Thursday. “Well, think about ours. We want the game to be fair.”

The top eight teams in the league qualify for the playoffs, and the Sky are seventh. The Sky haven’t missed the playoffs in Wade’s four seasons at the helm. In 2021, they turned a seven-game losing streak into a seven-game winning streak and eventually won the title.

This team can’t afford to fall into a similar slump. The next four weeks will be a litmus test of whether the Sky are a strong postseason contender.

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