A lot has been said about the possibility of the Sky meeting the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals. On Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Storm showed why they might pose a bigger threat to the Sky’s hopes of repeating as champions.
Noelle Quinn’s Storm team boasts the top defense in the league, forcing the Sky to match its intensity. The Sky did, led by Emma Meesseman — who was tasked with defending the WNBA’s leading scorer, Breanna Stewart — on the way to a 78-74 victory and their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Meesseman held Stewart to 11 points through three quarters before she broke loose in the fourth, scoring 13 points for the Storm and cutting the Sky’s late 10-point lead to three with 10 seconds to play.
“I thought we did our job [defending Stewart],” general manager/coach James Wade said. “She’s just a great player. If she catches you slipping, she’s going to take advantage of it. We just had to take our time and remain focused in the fourth quarter. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Ultimately, the Sky’s depth once again proved to be their strongest attribute. They had four players score in double figures, and all eight players who saw the floor scored.
Bench players Dana Evans, Rebekah Gardner and Azura Stevens came in late in the first quarter and erased a nine-point deficit. When they subbed out halfway through the second, the Sky had a seven-point lead. The Sky never trailed again after taking the lead in the second quarter.
Evans, Gardner and Stevens outscored the Storm’s bench 19-16.
“They helped us separate,” Wade said. “We started off on our heels, and when they came in, they started off in an aggressive mindset. We were able to catch up, tie the first quarter and separate in the second. That was the difference in the game.”
Meesseman played one of her most complete games of the season, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and one steal leading the Sky to their playoff-clinching 20th win of the season. Allie Quigley was the Sky’s leading scorer with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
This is the Sky’s fastest path to 20 wins, eclipsing their 20-8 mark in 2013. The Sky finished that season 24-10 before losing to the Indiana Fever in the first round of the playoffs.
Gabby Williams was back in Chicago for the first time since being suspended by Wade before the 2021 season and then traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. She ultimately sat out last season and had three points and six rebounds Wednesday.
Stewart led all scorers with 24 points. Jewell Loyd added 18 points and Tina Charles had 11.
This was the Sky’s second game without point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who remains in concussion protocol. Wade thinks she’ll be ready to go for the Commissioner’s Cup championship on Tuesday against the Aces. Despite the discomfort Vandersloot feels spending time away from the Sky, she’s confident in their play without her.
“She said [on FaceTime after Wednesday’s game] ‘You guys were so good,’ ” Quigley said.