The Sky had a team meeting after their 33-point loss to the Aces on Friday in which they discussed the need to return to a more joyful style of play, among other things.
Sky coach/general manager James Wade said he wanted to see his team play with each other and for each other Sunday night against the Indiana Fever.
The Sky, however, went into the half tied with the last-place Fever and seemed distracted on the court. The team failed to get into any kind of rhythm until the second half.
But an explosive second-half performance from Diamond DeShields helped propel the Sky to a 98-87 victory. DeShields tied her career high with 30 points off the bench.
“This was their last regular-season game,” DeShields said. “You don’t ever want to play down energetically, but trying to be self-motivated today I think had something to do with [the slow first half].”
Guard play was a focus and a good warmup for the first-round playoff game against the Dallas Wings. The Wings’ guards burned the Sky from three-point range this season. Coming into the game, the Sky’s goal was for their backcourt to make Kelsey Mitchell uncomfortable.
The Sky, however, failed to take Mitchell out of her game. She had 15 points in the first half, finished with 32 and shot 70.6% from the field.
Emma Cannon got to the rim all night, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“We should have gotten to [Mitchell’s] threes a little bit more,” Wade said.
The Sky host the Wings on Thursday night at 7 in a single-elimination game that will be broadcast on ESPN2.
The Wings won two of their three regular-season meetings. Defending the three-point line is going to be a point of emphasis. In both Wings victories, they shot 50% or better from three-point range. In their loss, they went 6-for-25 on threes.
“What you want to do is make them increase their shot volume, so their efficiency is low,” DeShields said. “And then neutralize the rest of their teammates. You have to focus on Arike [Ogunbowale]. She’s a great scorer, but I think we have the pieces to do it right.”
Defending Satou Sabally and Isabelle Harrison in the post will be another key. Sabally missed eight straight games with an Achilles injury before returning to the Wings’ lineup Sunday night in their 87-84 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sky need to limit their offensive boards. In their four-point loss to the Wings on Aug. 17, the Sky gave up 15 offensive boards and were outrebounded 45-32.
DeShields said they can live with the Wings’ post players having a night if they neutralize Ogunbowale, Allisha Gray and the rest of the Wings’ explosive backcourt.
The New York Liberty secured the No. 8 seed after the Sparks and Washington Mystics lost their last regular-season games. If the Sky make it past the first round, they will have the Minnesota Lynx or Seattle Storm waiting for them.
“We have to have a sense of urgency and treat every game like it’s our last,” Wade said. “That’s how it’s going to be until we get into a series.”