Sky impress on defense in second preseason game

“Our identity is going to have to be those hustle plays, those 50/50 balls,’’ Courtney Williams said.

SHARE Sky impress on defense in second preseason game
The Sky’s Rebekah Gardner scored 13 points and Isabelle Harrison a game-high 15 on Sunday against the Fever at Wintrust Arena.

The Sky’s Rebekah Gardner scored 13 points and Isabelle Harrison a game-high 15 on Sunday against the Fever at Wintrust Arena.

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Takeaways can be hard to come by in preseason games.

Rosters aren’t set, starters aren’t playing and for teams such as the Sky, who have an almost entirely new roster, players still are figuring each other out.

But in the Sky’s 81-56 victory Sunday against the Fever at Wintrust Arena, there was one play that was indicative of what fans can expect from them this season.

In the third quarter, the Sky’s Courtney Williams deflected the ball off the Fever’s Kristy Wallace and out of bounds. As the officials gathered the ball, Williams took a moment to high five someone sitting in the first row before running downcourt.

While Dana Evans brought the ball up, the season-ticket holders who were present for the Sky’s second preseason game made their appreciation for Williams’ hustle play known, erupting in cheers.

Through the first week of training camp, Sky coach/GM James Wade has emphasized defense and his appreciation for having a team full of players with chips on their shoulders. Plays such as the one Williams made are the kind he expects his team to make.

‘‘Our identity is going to have to be those hustle plays, those 50/50 balls,’’ Williams said. ‘‘They don’t believe in us right now, but it’s all good. We’re going to keep that chip on our shoulder.’’

Williams finished with 12 points, four steals, four assists and three rebounds. A couple of aspects of her play that stood out to Wade were her energy and movement off the ball, creating opportunities for her teammates by attracting defenders to herself.

The Sky’s biggest area of improvement came on defense. In their first preseason game Friday, they sent the Wings to the free-throw line 32 times; the Fever attempted only 15 free throws. Against the Wings, they came up with six steals; they had 14 against the Fever.

Rebekah Gardner matched Williams with four steals to go with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three-point range. Evans added 12 points.

‘‘[Gardner] shot the ball 35% from three last year,’’ Wade said. ‘‘She just didn’t shoot enough of them. She knows it’s something that we do here; we shoot the three. Just like [Isabelle Harrison]. She didn’t take many threes last year, but this year she’s taking them. She has to take them.’’

The Sky shot 62.5% from three-point range Sunday. Harrison finished with a game-high 15 points. What stands out early for the Sky’s new forward is her pick-and-roll action with Evans.

The pair’s ability to complement each other is something Harrison credits to a connection they developed in 2021, when Evans was drafted by the Wings. Evans played only six games for them before being traded to the Sky, but it was enough time for them to establish an understanding of each other’s game.

‘‘We practice together all the time,’’ Harrison said. ‘‘I know how Dana can pass and how she looks for her posts. I want to make sure she keeps passing it.’’

Sky forward/center Elizabeth Williams left the game in the first quarter after she hit the court hard while trying to block a shot by Fever rookie Aliyah Boston. Wade said after the game that she’s being tested for a concussion.

The Sky’s third and final preseason game is Saturday against the Lynx in Toronto. They will open the regular season May 19 against the Lynx on the road.

NOTE: Sky stars Kahleah Copper and Marina Mabrey sat out of the game to rest.

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