After their 80-76 loss Tuesday to the Dallas Wings, the Sky face a difficult and familiar problem: Candace Parker’s health.
After playing in the opener, Parker was sidelined with a sprained left ankle for eight games, during which the team went lost seven consecutive games. It was their worst losing streak since a nine-game skid in 2012.
With six minutes left in the third quarter, Wings forward Kayla Thornton clipped Parker’s left ankle while cutting behind her under the basket.
Parker fell to the floor in pain before she was helped up. She limped to the bench on her own and sat for a moment before walking back to the locker room.
When Parker emerged in the fourth quarter, she had ice on her left ankle and both knees.
Coach and general manager James Wade said after the game that he was optimistic because she was not experiencing the same swelling she did in May.
Wade told the Sun-Times on Wednesday morning that there was no update on Parker’s ankle.
Parker shared a tweet that said, “Control what you can, the rest [whatever].”
As the playoffs inch closer and the pressure of securing a top seed mounts, can the Sky win without Parker?
Assuming Parker is not sidelined for a lengthy period, the Sky still are challenged without her. Up next is a home game against the Minnesota Lynx, who owned an eight-game winning streak before losing to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.
Then the Sky set out on a five-game road trip that includes two games against the Seattle Storm and one against reigning MVP A’ja Wilson and the first-place Las Vegas Aces.
Parker leads the team in rebounding, is second in assists and third in scoring, and she brings the kind of energy that the team is in desperate need of right now.
All season the Sky have struggled with starting slow on the offensive end, but that issue has been amplified in the first two games back from the Olympic break.
Against the Storm on Sunday, the Sky scored six points through the first seven minutes of play before Allie Quigley came off the bench and sank three three-pointers in a row. On Tuesday night, the Sky were shooting 18% through much of the first quarter and scored just four points in the first six minutes.
After the team’s four-point loss in a game where it gave up 17 second-chance points, Wade and the players emphasized that the team’s energy is not where it needs to be.
“That’s lack of focus on closing out the play,” Azura Stevens said. “We had certain stops that were good and we just weren’t locked in to get that final part of the play finished.”
The team is in a different place than it was at the beginning of the season when Parker went down. For one, Quigley is healthy, and as the team’s second-leading scorer behind Kahleah Copper, has played a pivotal role coming off the bench. She shot nearly 78% from three-point range on Tuesday night.
Changes to the starting five are coming for the Sky (11-11) on Saturday. Wade already hasbeen playing with different starters at the five, playing Astou Ndour-Fall (in place of Stefanie Dolson) on Sunday and Stevens on Tuesday. Moving Quigley back to the starting lineup and having Diamond DeShields come off the bench could be a change that is forthcoming.
“We’ve given our lineup a chance the last two games,” Wade said.