What happens when the best team in the WNBA and the hottest team in the WNBA playoffs square off in the semifinals?
That question will be answered when the sixth-seeded Sky open a best-of-five series against the top-seeded Sun on Tuesday.
The first two games of the series will be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at Wintrust Arena. If necessary, Game 4 will be played at Wintrust and Game 5 in Connecticut.
The Sky went 2-1 in their regular-season series against the Sun, but Sun star Jonquel Jones, a favorite to be named the WNBA’s most valuable player, wasn’t available for any of those games because she was taking part in the European women’s championship.
In both of their victories against the Sun, the Sky had five or more players score in double figures. They also had 12 or fewer turnovers and shot better than 80% from the free-throw line.
The Sun allowed opponents to score fewer than 70 points a game during the regular season. The Sky, meanwhile, scored 83.3 points a game. Through two playoff games, the Sky is averaging 85 points and giving up 70.
‘‘We couldn’t break their identity,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after her team’s second-round loss Sunday to the Sky. ‘‘It’s the sign of a really good team.’’
There will be a few key matchups in the series. First, how the Sky’s guards handle the defensive aggressiveness of Briann January and Jasmine Thomas, both of whom were named to the WNBA’s all-defensive teams, will be telling.
On Sunday, Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot had no problem getting to the rim against the Lynx. She finished with 19 points, five assists and five rebounds. Even the Lynx’ second line of defense — center Sylvia Fowles and forward Napheesa Collier — couldn’t stop her.
Kahleah Copper, Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields combined for 41 points against the Lynx, but January and Thomas are better defenders.
‘‘They hang their hat on being an aggressive defensive ballclub,’’ Sky coach/general manager James Wade said. ‘‘They’ve been one of the best defensive teams, if not the best defensive team, and their guards have a lot to do with that.’’
Another key matchup will be between the Sky’s Azura Stevens and the Sun’s duo of Jonquel and Brionna Jones in the frontcourt. Both Joneses were named to the all-defensive teams, along with January and Thomas. Jonquel averaged a double-double during the regular season with 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds, and Stevens will need to make her uncomfortable.
The Sun will be keyed in on Sky forward Candace Parker, but Stevens has excelled under her guidance and came up big against the Lynx. Stevens finished with 15 points against Fowles and held her to four points in the second half. After the game, Parker pulled Stevens aside and told her how proud she was of her.
One of the most important aspects of Parker’s play is the way she can affect games in ways opponents can’t stop, including her facilitating and her coach’s mentality.
Adding her to the veteran duo of Vandersloot and Quigley already has proved to be a good return on investment because the Sky are back in the semifinals for the first time since 2016.
This series is going to five games, and the Sky are going to win it. Here’s why:
The Sky’s inconsistencies during the regular season left them with the No. 6 seed, which doesn’t accurately reflect the level of their talent. When they are playing at their best, they’re a championship-caliber team.
Against the Lynx on Sunday, they played their most complete game of the season on both ends. They aren’t the best three-point shooting team, but they don’t have to be when they are doing the little things right, such as outrebounding their opponent, limiting their turnovers and getting to the free-throw line.
Their balanced attack is tough to stop, and if they bring that against the Sun, they’ll make their first appearance in the WNBA Finals since 2014.