Sky emphasize discipline and communication in first practice since Game 1 battering

“It was good,” Interim coach/general manager Emre Vatansever said. “We got a lot done and I saw some improvements in our game. We’ll see if we can apply this to on the court.”

SHARE Sky emphasize discipline and communication in first practice since Game 1 battering
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LAS VEGAS — Sky practice at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion was noticeably different Friday.

From the hallway outside the gym, it wasn’t just whistles and play calls that could be heard, but also the noise of 13,000 fans on a loop — an audio track from Wednesday night’s playoff opener at T-Mobile Arena that a Sky staff member played during every offensive possession.

The goal was simple: recreate the environment that rattled the Sky in their 87-59 loss to the Aces that put them in a 1-0 hole in a best-of-three series.

“I missed some free throws early,” forward Kahleah Copper said. “Finally, just locked in. It’s nothing. It’s all mental, just being able to have that and communicate, because sometimes we’re missing play calls. We’re missing defensive schemes. So having that noise and being able to communicate through helps.”

Copper, who spent the Sky’s day off Thursday relaxing, said a key to responding after a blowout loss is not overcrowding your mind.

“It’s so important to have short-term memory,” she said.

One of the reasons the Sky played the top-seeded Aces so closely during the regular season, losing their three meetings by an average of 10.6 points, was their 40.3% three-point shooting in those games, which also contributed to their ability to attack the paint. But on Wednesday, they shot just 22.7% from three-point range and were outscored 44-28 inside, which included the Aces scoring in transition several times. The Sky spent the entire night in a foot race as the Aces gave up just nine offensive rebounds.

After the game, Copper said she didn’t want to see negative faces from teammates when they watched the film. She was happy to report Friday there were none.

“When you watch the film, you see where shots are coming from,” she said. “You see what they’re looking like. Some of them were good — they just don’t go [in]. So it’s important to trust, keep the trust in yourself . . . that you put in the work. The shots will go.”

Former Sky coach and general manager James Wade gambled on guard Marina Mabrey. She went on a hot streak to end the regular season, averaging 16.9 points per game while shooting 46% from three-point range in the Sky’s final eight games, but she went cold in Game 1. She finished with seven points, shooting 1-for-4 from deep and committing four turnovers and four fouls, two of which appeared to come out of pure frustration.

Mabrey didn’t practice Friday. Interim coach and GM Emre Vatansever said she was under the weather.

“Nothing major, I would say,” Vatansever said. “We were being cautious. Nothing is going to be affected. We’ll see how she feels [Saturday]. If she feels good, she’ll join practice. If not, she’s going to be here on game day.”

Game 2 is at 2 p.m. Sunday. After preaching about a lack of discipline in Game 1, Vatansever was pleased with the response Friday.

“It was good,” he said. “We got a lot done, and I saw some improvements in our game. We’ll see if we can apply this to on the court.”

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