Well, the Sky’s reign as WNBA champions sure was fun. What a ride. What a thrill.
Too bad it’s about to end.
But don’t just take my word for it. After all, I’m the yutz who would’ve told you five minutes ago that the Sky still are — even down 1-0 to the Sun in a best-of-five semifinal series — in great shape where their hopes of repeating are concerned. And I would’ve based that entirely on my modest proficiency in matters of the team and the league, because I enjoy pretending to be an expert even though a little knowledge can be, as the saying goes, a dangerous thing.
No, it seems the Sky are in real trouble. I wasn’t aware of this until I stumbled upon the Las Vegas odds for the WNBA championship and saw the team with the 2021 banner hanging in Wintrust Arena is actually the biggest longshot left. The Aces — despite being down 1-0 themselves, against the Storm — are +210 to win it all. The Storm and Sun are +250 each. The Sky are +350. If that reads like a bunch of gobbledygook to you, walk to the nearest mirror and take a nice bow for being one of the few people remaining on Earth whose nose isn’t stuck in a sports betting app.
“That’s a good team that we’re playing against,” Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot said of the Sun, who took Game 1 68-63 and go for a series stranglehold Wednesday at Wintrust.
All four teams are good — better than good — which is what seems to make this an ideal WNBA postseason. Around here, we loved seeing the Sky beat the Mercury in last year’s finals, but those were the league’s sixth- and fifth-seeded playoff teams, respectively; to many fans, one can only assume, it was a less-than-riveting matchup. This time, it’s all about the heavyweights, with the top four seeds in the center of the ring and, making things more dramatic, both road teams up 1-0. How does a pair of Game 5s sound?
“This is what’s really good for the league,” Vandersloot said, “because we have four teams that are capable of winning a championship battling for it. That’s what we’ve always wanted here in the WNBA. It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be fun to see who’s there at the end.”
If they win Game 2, the Sky will be right back in the thick of it, the championship odds will change and the experts — real ones and pretend ones — will sing different tunes. The Sky as underdogs? Come on, it just doesn’t sit right. They were underdogs last year, when they were a .500 team in the regular season. This squad rolled into the playoffs at 26-10, the best record in team history, and ought to know it can go toe-to-toe with anybody.
“We’re not hunted, we’re hunting,” coach James Wade said. “If somebody’s hunting us, we’re just running face-to-face with them, so I don’t think we’re running away from anything. That’s the kind of sense you get when you get hunted; it’s like a target on your back. I guess you’d say the target is on our forehead, because we’ve got one on theirs, too.”
That’s some kind of dramatic imagery. It appears to come easily to Wade, who also likened the Sky’s recent habit of living dangerously — they lost Game 1 of their opening series against the Liberty, too — to “driving a Harley with one hand.”
But there’s plenty of drama in these semifinals as it is. The Sun want revenge after losing as the No. 1 seed to the Sky in 2021 and, bigger picture, want to finally bring a women’s basketball title to Connecticut that doesn’t belong to the college superpower in Storrs. The Sky have superstar Candace Parker — not to mention Allie Quigley — possibly getting ready to hang up the sneakers for good, which the Storm’s Sue Bird, WNBA royalty, definitely is about to do. The loaded Aces are desperately seeking their first title as A’Ja Wilson and the Storm’s Breanna Stewart wait to find out which one of them will be voted league MVP.
It’s all good stuff.
“It’s the semis,” Stewart said. “If you’re not ready, then I don’t even know what to tell you. This is the semifinals to work our way toward winning a championship, so we’re locked in and we’re ready.”
The ride isn’t over for any of these four teams yet. If anything, it’s just getting started.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Vandersloot said. “We know what we have, and we don’t need anybody else to believe it or know it except us.”