Sky lose to Fever but clinch spot in Commissioner’s Cup championship game with Sun loss
Candace Parker (knee) missed her second consecutive game, but coach/general manager James Wade said she’ll be back on the court Tuesday against the Aces.
INDIANAPOLIS — Before their game Sunday against the Fever had ended, the Sky’s ticket to the Commissioner’s Cup championship game July 26 had been punched by virtue of the Sun’s loss earlier in the day.
The Sky’s 89-87 loss to the Fever only will have potential implications on the venue for the championship game.
‘‘This was a big one because we could have stayed undefeated [in Cup play],’’ guard Courtney Vandersloot said. ‘‘Now we’re talking about hosting, those types of things. Those are the things we were trying to strive for.’’
The Aces have two remaining Cup games and the Sky one. Unless the Aces lose both, they will host the championship game.
After the Sky’s overtime victory Friday against the Dream, general manager/coach James Wade said his team needs to get better at holding leads and pulling away from teams. Against the Fever, the Sky once again gave up a double-digit lead and found themselves fighting back as time ticked down.
Trailing by one, the Sky won a jump ball that was overturned after an official said the ball wasn’t tossed correctly. On the second attempt, the Fever’s Victoria Vivians was able to win possession over Emma Meesseman, who subsequently fouled her. Vivians made one of her two free throws to give the Fever a two-point lead with seven seconds left.
On the Sky’s last possession, Vandersloot was able to get a shot off with a second left but missed.
Kahleah Copper scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Sky. Vandersloot added 13 points and seven rebounds and Meesseman 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. All 10 Sky players scored.
The difference proved to be the Fever’s 35-point third quarter, which was led by rookie NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell. The Sky held Mitchell, who is third in the league in scoring (19.2 points per game), to two points in the first half, but she finished with 13 points and nine assists. Smith had a career-high 26 points to go with 11 rebounds.
‘‘We’re not good enough to guard [Smith] right now,’’ Wade said.
Forward Candace Parker (knee) missed her second consecutive game. Wade said she returned to practice Saturday and will be available Tuesday against the Aces. The Sky’s defensive rating with Parker on the floor this season is 92.6. In her absence during the last two games, it worsened to 106.8.
Parker’s absence was missed on the boards, specifically. The Fever outrebounded the Sky 39-27 and scored 14 second-chance points. Parker leads the Sky in rebounds with 7.9 per game and is eighth in the league.
‘‘Even with Candace being as good of a rebounder as she is, we’re still giving up a lot of offensive rebounds,’’ Vandersloot said. ‘‘We’ve addressed it plenty of times, and we have to find a way to get it done.’’
Wade said he hasn’t discussed the Commissioner’s Cup championship with his team. The players, however, are looking forward to an opportunity to earn a significant amount of extra money.
There is a $500,000 prize pool on the line, with $30,000 going to each player on the winning team. Each player on the losing team will earn $10,000.
‘‘It’s going to be fun,’’ forward Ruthy Hebard said. ‘‘But it’s going to be a good chance for us to improve again.’’