The Sky played ugly against the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday at Wintrust Arena.
The reigning champs shot 16% from three-point range, their lowest mark of the season, and were held to their second-lowest scoring output in an 83-76 loss to the league’s best team (8-1).
At one point in the third quarter the Sky trailed by 18 points and looked like they might roll over, but a boost from the bench cut the deficit to 13 heading into the fourth. In the final minutes, the starters found their touch. Despite their shooting woes, they came within four points with under a minute left after going into a full-court press.
By the time they found their sense of urgency, it was too late.
“There’s a collective urgency that we have to have,” coach/GM James Wade said. “The bench gave that to us and it was infectious. After that, it was just too late to make a run.”
Saturday’s loss moves the Sky (4-3) to third in the Eastern Conference and sixth overall, but Wade said it doesn’t mean anything.
The starters looked outpaced against the Aces in the second and third quarters and struggled to find their normal cohesion on the offensive end.
The Sky, who are averaging 24 assists per game, finished with just 16, and Courtney Vandersloot had only three. Overall, the Aces did a solid job of taking the Sky out of their rhythm after exchanging baskets in the first quarter.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams I’ve ever seen,” Wade said. “It was tough for us.”
Wade said he was happy with his team’s shot selection. They got plenty of open looks but failed to adjust, crash the offensive boards and get easy buckets inside when their outside shots weren’t falling.
Vandersloot totaled 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Candace Parker had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kahleah Copper added 12 points and three rebounds.
Despite the loss, there were two positive takeaways. The bench outscored the Aces 29-0, and they held Becky Hammon’s team below their average field-goal percentage. They also held Jackie Young to 10 points, nine below her season average. The rest of the Aces still managed to put up solid numbers. A’ja Wilson had 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Kelsey Plum added 19 points, six assists and three rebounds.
Wade has constantly stated his team’s need to play with a sense of urgency through all four quarters. The Sky have yet to play a complete game this season, something that might be attributed to the roster just beginning to become whole.
Copper played in just her third game since finishing her overseas campaign. Li Yueru got her first WNBA minutes and Julie Allemand doesn’t arrive until June.
Still, when that urgency isn’t there for the Sky they have to create it, or losses like Saturday will accumulate.
“We have to get consecutive stops,” Copper said. “We have to get out in transition, move the ball and play like Chicago plays. That gives us the confidence.”