Kia Nurse’s buzzer-beater hands Sky fifth straight loss, all at home
Tuesday, the Sky once again battled with a worn-out roster and fell to the Phoenix Mercury 84-83 after Kia Nurse sunk a buzzer-beater three-point shot from just past half-court.
This Sky team was not the one coach and general manager James Wade imagined he’d be coaching this early in the season.
Nagging injuries have kept Candace Parker (ankle) and Allie Quigley (hamstring) sidelined, forcing Wade to get creative, which is a challenge when you are limited to eight available players.
On Tuesday at Wintrust Arena, the Sky once again battled with a worn-out roster and fell to the Phoenix Mercury 84-83 after Kia Nurse sank a buzzer-beating three-point shot from 26 feet.
This is the Sky’s fifth consecutive loss, all at home.
“It’s hard when we’re playing with six, seven players and our backs against the wall,” said Diamond DeShields, who scored a game-high 26 points. “That’s all we have right now.”
Coming into the game, the Sky led the league in rebounds and defensive rating. The Mercury outrebounded them 35-28, but the Sky forced 19 turnovers. Courtney Vandersloot had five steals and DeShields added four.
One persistent issue for the Sky is their 22.2% turnover percentage, which is third-worst in the league.
Against the Mercury, they finished with 10 turnovers, their lowest number this season.
Limiting Brittney Griner’s scoring opportunities in the paint and taking away second-chance looks was a key coming into the game. The Sky held Griner, who averages 17.8 points per game, to 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Sky were largely ineffective in disrupting Skylar Diggins-Smith who finished with 24 points. The Mercury had five players finish in double figures in points, including Nurse who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
The Sky (2-5) shot 19 of 20 from the free-throw line which kept them in the game. A big third-quarter defensively was almost enough to earn them their first win at home. They came back from an 11-point deficit to head into the fourth quarter tied at 61.
With under three minutes left in the game, the Sky had a 10-point lead. Nurse’s buzzer-beater from a step inside the half-court line came off a rebound of a missed shot by Kahleah Copper.
The team announced the signing of Lexie Brown before the game. With limited options at guard without Quigley, this signing was critical in getting players rest. More important though was the WNBA experience she brought to the court.
Brown finished with just two points but had four assists and was able to contend with the Mercury’s backcourt defensively. She got her hands on multiple passes that disrupted the Mercury’s offensive rhythm in the second half.
“She was good defensively,” Wade said. “She’s part of the reason we didn’t turn the ball over much.”
Rookie guard Shyla Heal did not play. Wade stressed the importance of needed experience on the court, and Heal is still growing into her role as a backup to Vandersloot.
The Sky kick off a two-game road trip Thursday in Phoenix on Thursday and close it out Saturday in Los Angeles.
Quigley is expected to play Thursday. Stefanie Dolson also will be available after returning from Team USA’s 3x3 Olympic Qualifying tournament. Parker is still day-to-day.