The Chicago Sky’s rejuvenated confidence from three-consecutive victories in which they scored at least 100 points was stunted by the Minnesota Lynx. The Sky were unable to overcome the sharp shooting and overall physicality of the Lynx in a 88-79 defeat.
Despite some individual heroics and a last-minute surge that brought Chicago within reach of a fourth-straight victory, they didn’t have enough to get it done.
Both Kahleah Copper and Elizbaeth Williams put on some strong performances. Copper embraced her usual lead-by-example ethos by doing a little bit of everything. She scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed three rebounds. Early on, she hit her first three shots from the 3-point line. This season, she is shooting 42.7 percent from 3, which is a mere four percentage points behind the 46.7 percent she shot from deep during her 2016 rookie season with the Washington Mystics.
Copper says she has grown more confident and comfortable in her ability to shoot the 3. “I’m super confident,” she said. “It’s the part of my game that I wanted to grow this year. I know how hard it is to guard someone that could score at every level. Me being able to hit the 3 does a lot for my game and also for my team.”
E. Williams arguably played her best game in a while. She scored 18 points, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, and passed four assists. She led the team in field goal percentage at 81 percent, as most of her points came from the paint. The Lynx outscored the Sky inside 18-6 in the first quarter, but E. Williams was able to close the gap to where the Sky finished just four points shy at 40-36.
After a scoreless first half, Courtney Williams came around in the second half. She scored 12 points and dished out a team-high six assists. She was brimming with confidence after hitting a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to bring the Sky within three. After the Sky trailed by as many as 10 points, it was 65-62 entering the fourth.
In the final moments of the fourth quarter, with Chicago trailing by 10 again, C. Williams hit two crucial jumpers to bring them within six, 83-77, with 1:53 remaining. Then, with 1:02 left, Copper stole the ball and took it all the way to the hole to cut it to four, 83-79.
Hopes for a dramatic comeback were dashed after C. Williams turned it over with 28 seconds left; it was her only turnover of the game.
Afterwards, interim head coach Emre Vatansever spoke highly of C. Williams’ efforts in the game’s later stages, emphasizing how that one mistake doesn’t define the outcome of the game. “It is not just an individual thing,” he said. “Down the stretch she did really good stuff.”
Ultimately it was in these two critical areas that did Chicago in:
The Sky only shot 42.1 percent from the field compared to the Lynx’s 57.1 percent. In the first quarter, Chicago shot 57 percent from the 3-point line, which kept them in the game as they only shot 40 percent overall from the field. But in the second quarter, their 3-point stroke disappeared; they fell below 50 percent and finished the game shooting 39.3 beyond the arc.
Minnesota’s frequent trips to the foul line
Chicago was sluggish getting back on transition defense. They, in turn, would foul Minnesota more frequently, which then resulted in the Lynx making 26 trips to the line. The Sky shot only five free throws. Lynx forward Jessica Shepard went 9-for-10 from the line and scored 19 points. Napheesa Collier, who finished with a game-high 29 points, was 8-for-10 from the line. Even though both teams converted 80 percent of their free throws, Minnesota simply got more chances.
This game was supposed to be a must-win for the Sky in order to secure a potential sixth spot in the playoffs. Now, with some venerable opponents coming up, every game is crucial.
The Sky (12-16) will hit the road to play the New York Liberty (22-6) on Friday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. CST.