Sky have opportunity to put space between themselves and Sparks this week

To create some separation between themselves and the bottom four teams in the league, the Sky need more cohesion in moments of adversity.

SHARE Sky have opportunity to put space between themselves and Sparks this week
Sky interim coach/GM Emre Vatansever

“I’m in the mindset that if we play the right way, the results will take care of themselves,” Sky interim coach/GM Emre Vatansever said. “The result is, of course, winning.”

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Just over six weeks stand between the Sky and their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, which at this point is certainly not a given.

Ahead of their game against the last-place Storm on Friday at Wintrust Arena, the eighth-place Sky (9-14) have a slight edge on the ninth-place Sparks (9-15) for the last spot in the playoffs. The next five games offer a chance to create some separation between themselves and the bottom four teams in the league, something three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper acknowledged Thursday afternoon.

“We’re looking at the standings,” Copper said. “We’re seeing the one-game separation will take you here, one loss will take you there. These next few games are a really good opportunity for us to get a little bit of separation and also try to catch up to Minnesota, who is moving up.”

The Sky are a different team than they were when they opened the season with a convincing win over the Lynx on the road.

For starters, the coach/general manager that brought this group together — James Wade — has since left for the NBA and been replaced on an interim basis by his lead assistant Emre Vatansever. On top of that, the Sky have adjusted to season-ending injuries to key contributors Rebekah Gardner and Isabelle Harrison.

Since Wade’s exit, the Sky are 2-5 with wins over the 11th-place Fever and the Storm. Vatansever’s focus isn’t on the standings.

“I’m in the mindset that if we play the right way, the results will take care of themselves,” Vatansever said. “The result is, of course, winning. The team is approaching [the game] the right way. We are playing better together.”

Vatansever’s assessment follows the Sky’s 12-point loss to the Aces. Despite the loss, they played their most cohesive game of the season.

Copper was relentless on both ends of the floor all game, scoring 15 points in the first quarter alone. She finished with a career-high 37 points on 67% shooting. Most notable from a team perspective was the ability to withstand the Aces’ runs.

An issue that has plagued the Sky and allowed winnable games to get out of hand — like their 18-point loss to the Mercury coming out of the All-Star break — has been their mentality in tough moments. Vatansever has made reference to the team’s slumped shoulders, hanging heads and a disconnect that occurs at times.

That wasn’t the reason for their loss Tuesday night, rather it was their inability to contain any of the Aces’ All-Stars, who combined for 88 points while the Sky’s three top scorers behind Copper combined for 30.

“They are communicating more at the moment,” Vatansever said. “They encourage each other more. Our coaching staff is encouraging them, too. We work on the mental side, not going in our heads and just coming together to talk about it. That’s why we stayed close against Las Vegas.”

Vatansever said his team’s loss to the Aces provided some added confidence in how they can play when they stay together. He said they’ve emphasized a next-play mentality, and that everybody is approaching each other with a better mindset.

After the game against the Storm, the Sky play the Mercury at home Sunday, followed by two road games against the Wings before returning home to play the Lynx.

They’ve earned convincing wins against all of them this season.

“There will be [challenging] moments,” Vatansever said. “If we stick together in those moments, eight out of 10 times that will be successful for us, not four out of 10 times. We have those get-together moments. It has to be more frequent.”

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