Sky coach James Wade has coached in some memorable games in Minneapolis, including the 2017 WNBA Finals when he was part of Cheryl Reeve’s coaching staff.
Before the sixth-seeded Sky’s second-round playoff game Sunday against the third-seeded Lynx, Wade said he hadn’t put too much thought into coaching against Reeve in the playoffs for the first time.
But after guiding the Sky to an 89-76 victory and their first semifinal appearance since 2016, Wade had some thoughts.
‘‘[This game ranks] really high,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I would say at the top. Professionally, this is the greatest gift I’ve been given, leading the Sky.’’
Part of the Sky’s game plan was to be aggressive in the paint, and they succeeded from start to finish. In the last game between the teams, the Sky’s Azura Stevens had five points on three shots. The team needed more from her Sunday and got it.
Stevens had no problem backing down Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, who was honored with her fourth Defensive Player of the Year award before the game. She finished with 15 points and eight rebounds and played a critical role in the Sky limiting the Lynx to six offensive rebounds.
The Sky’s balanced offensive attack featured five players in double figures. In addition to Stevens, Courtney Vandersloot scored 19 points, Kahleah Copper 16 (to go with 10 rebounds), Diamond DeShields 14 and Allie Quigley 11. The Sky outscored the Lynx 48-32 in the paint.
‘‘They know who they are,’’ Reeve said. ‘‘They were so persistent in their identity, and we couldn’t break that.’’
All season, the Sky have struggled to put a complete game together. After their first-round victory against the Wings, Wade said he was happy with everything but their third-quarter performance.
Against the Lynx, the Sky played a complete game. They won every quarter except the first, which they lost by a point.
Clicking at the right time has been the message the Sky have preached since the Olympic break. The first two rounds of the playoffs have offered proof that they are.
‘‘We have talented players,’’ Wade said. ‘‘And maybe they go somewhere else and can do more, but they have bought in to everybody stepping up for their moment.’’
The Sky struggled to limit Fowles’ touches in the first half, but they had her number in the second. She finished with 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
Aerial Powers came up big for the Lynx, finishing with 24 points. She led a run that cut the Sky’s lead to four in the fourth quarter before Quigley responded with a three-pointer off an assist from Vandersloot.
The Sky next will face the top-seeded Sun in the best-of-five semifinals. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The Sun had the best defensive rating in the league during the regular season, and four of their players were named to the all-defensive first or second team. But if the Sky get all of their offensive weapons involved, the Sun will be forced to pick their poison.
‘‘We’re exactly where we want to be, playing the best basketball of the season,’’ Vandersloot said.