The Sky will seek to make the statement that they are in control in Game 3 of their best-of-five WNBA semifinals series Sunday against the Connecticut Sun.
The team did its job on the road by stealing Game 1 in a double-overtime thriller that will go down in the WNBA history books thanks to Courtney Vandersloot.
In Game 2, the Sky looked as if they could potentially pull off another victory before exhaustion set in during the fourth quarter. Then their attention to detail lapsed, leading to their 11-point loss and an even series.
Victories at Wintrust Arena on Sunday and Wednesday would send the Sky into the WNBA Finals.
“When they get offensive rebounds it kind of demoralizes you a little bit,” Allie Quigley said. “We need to be tougher on the boards and executing on offense.”
The Sky went into the fourth quarter of Game 2 with a one-point lead before Alyssa Thomas went into overdrive.
She scored 10 points in the period to finish with 15, with 11 rebounds, in her fourth game back since tearing her Achilles in January. The Sky ultimately were outscored 21-9 in the last 10 minutes of the game.
The Sun had four other players in double figures and none was -Jonquel Jones, the WNBA MVP.
“We still haven’t played our best game yet,” Sun center Brionna Jones said.
The idea that the Sun haven’t played their best game should terrify the Sky. They can’t afford to let the Sun get into a rhythm or take it to a Game 5, making Game 3 a must-win.
To secure the first one at home, Kahleah Copper and Azura Stevens likely will need to show up in a big way.
Copper has averaged 16.2 points in the playoffs. In the single-elimination games against the Wings and the Lynx, Copper had 23 and 16. Against the Sun, Copper was held to 13 in both games but has made an impact with her defense.
Stevens had 15 points and eight rebounds against the Lynx and Sylvia Fowles. In both games against the Sun, she was less productive. Her presence has been critical in freeing up Candace Parker in the post.
“I’m doing all that I can to complement her as a player,” Stevens has said. “Teams really key in on her.”
The Sky were pegged as underdogs coming into the series because of their No. 6 seeding. But that doesn’t depict how well they match up against the top-seeded Sun.
In their three regular-season games, the Sky gave the Sun three of their toughest games of the year. Part of that was because the Sun played without Jones, another was because of the Sky’s depth.
Sky coach James Wade made changes to his starting five after the Olympic break that have paid dividends on offense. Sun coach Curt Miller called them a scoring juggernaut.
Against the Lynx, the bench combined for 20 points with Diamond DeShields scoring 14. In Game 1 of the semifinals, DeShields, Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndour-Fall each had nine points. On Thursday, those three combined for 13.
At their best, this team gets everybody involved. That’s what needs to happen Sunday if the Sky are going to take control of the series.