Emma Meesseman’s impact can’t be overstated as Sky look to advance past Sun

Meesseman is averaging 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and one block through the Sky’s first five playoff games.

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Emma Meesseman celebrates during the fourth quarter of the Sky’s 85-77 Game 2 win over the Sun.

Emma Meesseman celebrates during the fourth quarter of the Sky’s 85-77 Game 2 win over the Sun.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When coach/general manager James Wade started discussing the possibility of Emma Meesseman signing with the Sky last winter, Candace Parker was thrilled.

One reason was that Parker wouldn’t have to play against her. Meesseman isn’t a fun matchup because of her movement and ability to consistently hit shots from the post to the three-point line.

Those same traits she despised defending reenergized an already dominant Sky offense and created opportunities on that end of the floor for everyone.

“Emma’s aggressive is different than everybody else’s,” Wade said. “Her aggressive is looking to make plays. We appreciated that she was herself [in Game 2]. She doesn’t force, but sometimes we want her to and need her to open up our offense.”

During the regular season, Meesseman averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Those averages have dipped through the first five games of the postseason.

Meesseman averaged eight points and 3.6 rebounds in the Sky’s three-game series against the Liberty. In Game 1 of the semifinals against the Sun, she played a little closer to her regular-season standard, finishing with 10 points, three rebounds and seven assists. But ultimately, the Sky’s lack of production led to their five-point loss.

In Game 2, though, she provided the performance her team needed.

“To see her bounce back, that’s the biggest thing,” Parker said. “Looking at everybody and how focused they were coming into [Game 2], especially her. When Emma says she’s going to do something, she does it.”

Earlier in the week, the Sky were noticeably absent from the WNBA’s All-Defensive teams. The Sky’s fourth-ranked defense during the regular season was largely anchored by Meesseman. Earlier in the season, she was in conversations for defensive player of the year.

Her defense Wednesday, specifically her hedging and deflections, contributed to three of the Sun’s top four scorers being held to single digits. The Sky also limited the Sun to six second-chance points, half of their regular-season average. Meesseman finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Sky said earlier in the week they weren’t giving much thought to the All-Defensive-team snubs, but that didn’t stop Wade from taking an opportunity to mock the lists after his team’s win.

“We’re such a horrible defensive team,” Wade said. “[Meesseman] was able to show up and do those things. It’s not like she’s been doing those things all year.”

Wade’s response was dripping in sarcasm. All season, he has given out a WWE belt to the player who finishes each game with the most deflections, and Meesseman has been the recipient more often than not. Part of the game she relishes is making the reads that allow her to pick apart offenses.

The series moves to Uncasville, Connecticut, for Game 3 at noon Sunday and Game 4 at 7 p.m. Tuesday. At their best, the Sky are balanced on offense. A key to beating the Sun and advancing to the WNBA Finals for the second time in two years will be maintaining that balance.

Meesseman’s ability to open the floor with her activity and aggressiveness will be vital.

“We’ve been talking about creating our own reality,” Meeseman said. “And making others live it. Being aggressive and making them take a step back is part of it.”

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