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Sky’s No. 6 seed at risk after 79-71 loss to Mystics

The Sky came within three but never led against the Mystics after the first quarter. This loss puts the team back at .500 (15-15) on the season.

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The Washington Mystics came into Wintrust Arena on Sunday fighting for a playoff spot while the Sky were fighting to hold on to the No. 6 seed.

As coach and general manager James Wade pointed out after the team’s 79-71 loss, they can’t move up in the standings, but they can move down.

“Nobody looks at our team and thinks ‘Oh, I want to be like the Sky,’ ” Wade said.

Coming off a playoff-clinching win against the Las Vegas Aces last week, this game should have been a tuneup for the Sky. Instead, they dug an early hole, including allowing the Mystics to go on an 11-0 run to end the first quarter, and spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.

Turnovers, poor shooting and three-point defense all were issues. The Sky came within three but never led after the first quarter. The loss drops the Sky (15-15) back to .500.

Wade expressed displeasure with the starting five as energy was once again an issue. He combated that by switching things up with eight minutes left in the third quarter by putting Dana Evans, Lexie Brown, Diamond DeShields, Ruthy Hebard and Stefanie Dolson on the court together.

His only regret was not leaving them on the floor. Evans finished with seven points on 3 of 4 shooting but only played eight minutes.

“We didn’t have many players that showed up tonight,” Wade said. “The bench came in and gave us a boost. They earned the right to finish it off, and I should have stayed with them.”

Azura Stevens (18), Allie Quigley (15) and Candace Parker (12) all finished in double figures in points, but Kahleah Copper was a nonfactor with three points.

The Sky made their first three of the game in the third quarter and finished the game shooting 13.6% (3-for-22) from behind the arc.

The Mystics’ Tina Charles went off for 34 points and 17 rebounds in the teams’ previous meeting, so stopping her was a point of emphasis. Wade said before the game that his players had to beat her to spots, crowd her space and take away her rhythm. They didn’t do any of that.

“Taking away some of her patent moves [was an issue],” Stevens said. “Clogging up her space more. We’ve seen other teams do that and they were successful. We could have done a better job at that.”

Charles had 31 points and 10 rebounds and shot 50% from three-point range.

With two games left, the Sky are the sixth seed and will only drop to the seventh seed if they lose their last two games (against the Aces and Indiana Fever) and the Dallas Wings win their final two (at the Aces and against the Los Angeles Sparks). The tight race for the No. 8 seed is between the Mystics, Sparks and New York Liberty.

“It’s more of an internal thing [right now],” Dolson said. “We all have to have a bit more pride. We know how to play basketball but every team, every player in this league knows how to play basketball.”