The Sky showed just how dangerous they can be if they execute their game plan and play with energy, as they did in their 105-78 victory against the Mercury on Sunday in their home finale at Wintrust Arena.
The Sky’s performance, their highest-scoring game this season, was the opposite of how they played in their embarrassing loss to the injury-riddled Wings on Thursday.
Forwards Cheyenne Parker and Astou Ndour scored 18 points each and added eight and seven rebounds, respectively. Forward Diamond DeShields had 15 points. Six Sky players finished in double digits in points.
Point guard Courtney Vandersloot also bolstered her case for MVP by dishing out 13 assists and scoring nine points.
The Sky outrebounded the Mercury 45-32 and had a season-low six turnovers.
Coach James Wade said the Sky’s sense of urgency was at an “all-time high to get things done” after back-to-back losses.
“It took us a while to get into a groove defensively, but we played with an extra pep and energy that we needed,” Wade said.
Now it’s a matter of sustaining that high-level intensity, which Parker believes the Sky are capable of doing.
“When we’re at a razor-sharp focus, our team is unstoppable,” she said. “We have so many weapons. If we keep that same energy and that same level of focus, I think we’re going to make a lot of noise in the playoffs, and this definitely set the tone for that.”
With two regular-season road games remaining against the two best teams in the WNBA — the Sun on Friday and the Mystics on Sunday — the Sky need to be able to adjust their game plan mid-game like they did against the Mercury.
After All-Star center Brittney Griner scored 20 in the first half, Wade turned to the injured Jantel Lavender, who was a guest analyst on the Sky’s broadcast. He asked her what she saw and how the Sky could stop Griner. Lavender’s advice clearly worked because in the second half, the Sky held Griner to just six points by applying pressure to her near the three-point line and smothering her when the ball was in her hands.
“We see the capabilities we had as a full-team effort,” Parker said. “So I think just keeping the mindset we had in the second half.”
Sunday’s game certainly had the makings of a playoff atmosphere. Fans held up “Vandersloot for MVP” signs and were engaged throughout the entire game. They booed when center Stefanie Dolson, who had 10 points, fouled out in the fourth quarter due to a questionable call and cheered when DeShields stole the ball from point guard
Diana Taurasi for an easy breakaway layup.
Because the Lynx beat the Fever on Sunday, the Sky need one more win to clinch homecourt advantage for the first round of playoffs. Playing at Wintrust Arena would be huge for the Sky as they historically play better at home. They finished the regular season with a 12-5 mark at home, their best home record since 2015.
“From this season and last season, we have a really great fan base that continues to grow,” Parker said. “It’s nice, I like playing here more.”