Despite coach/general manager James Wade saying before the game that his team could lose Game 2 in an attempt to emphasize that the first team to three wins advances, Wednesday night was a must-win for the Sky.
After dropping Game 1 to the Connecticut Sun on Sunday, the Sky found themselves in a familiar but undesirable situation.
“We never want to have our backs against the wall,” Courtney Vandersloot said ahead of Game 2. “We need to beat them the first to three, not the first to one.”
The Sky did win Game 2 and now head to Uncasville, Connecticut, for Game 3 at noon on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday. A time for the latter has yet to be determined.
The chess match between the Sky and the Sun isn’t limited to the action on the court. Both Wade and Sun coach/GM Curt Miller had phrases for their teams that were just as much messages for each other.
Wade has reiterated to his team, “You can’t guard what you can’t catch,” to the point that Miller overheard it on the sideline. Miller’s note for his team was “No rest, congest,” emphasizing the importance of disrupting the Sky’s free-flowing offense.
On Wednesday night it was Wade’s catchphrase that caught on. His players found the rhythm they were very much lacking in Game 1 and rode it to a 85-77 win Wednesday night. They were held to 26 points in the paint on Sunday but had 42 points inside in Game 2.
Pace and tone
The Sky scored the first four points in Game 1 before allowing the Sun to go on an 11-0 run. Coming into Wednesday night, there was an emphasis from both teams on controlling the pace and tone of Game 2.
It was vital that the Sky enforce their will and play their style of basketball which meant getting out and running with the ball in transition and staying in constant motion in the half-court.
Wade’s team carried a 10-point advantage into the second quarter and extended that to 15 at the half. In the fourth quarter they extended their lead to as much as 20 before allowing the Sun to go on a 21-9 run that resulted in the game being decided by eight points.
Emma Meesseman has been quiet through the start of the playoffs averaging just 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds through the first four games. A key to the Sky controlling the pace and tone of the game was Meesseman’s performance. She finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Sky didn’t need to hear much of a pep talk from Wade after their Game 1 loss to the Sun. Wade’s starting lineup has spent an average of 11 years in the league.
“The best coaching line I’ve ever had was, ‘Hey guys, we have to make shots,’ ” Wade said. “It worked that time. I hope it works this time.”
The Sky were 24-for-68 in Sunday’s loss. It was an uncharacteristic performance from the best field-goal shooting team (48.1%) during the regular season.
Candace Parker made history in Game 1 and followed it up with another dominant performance. She had a team-high 22 points, four rebounds and four assists and three blocks Wednesday night.
Vandersloot was held to five points and two assists in Game 1 but had 10 points, eight assists and three rebounds in Game 2.