It’s only the middle of June and already it’s been a roller coaster season for the Chicago Sky. After inking Sparks free agent Candace Parker in the offseason the team was feeling sky high. Many pundits certified Chicago as a legitimate title contender as a result of this move. The Sky notched two wins to start the year but then proceeded to lose seven straight. Of course injuries to Parker and Allie Quigley played a major role in that streak, but anytime you lose that many games in consecutive fashion, during a relatively short season— questions start to seep in.
My what a difference a week (and the return of Parker) makes. Since their seventh straight loss the team has now rattled off three wins in a row including Tuesday’s national TV thumping of the Lynx. Minnesota’s poor defense combined with Chicago’s pace and shot making ability made the Sky look like the potential title contenders they were believed to be coming into the year. They are a team of highly talented veteran players, led by 2019’s coach of the year James Wade, hungry to bring the Sky their first title in franchise history.
Chicago stepped on the gas right out of the gate, forcing turnovers and converting those Lynx miscues for easy points. Minnesota’s opening frame was one of their worst of the season as they hemorrhaged points. 39 to be exact, which put the Lynx in a 17 point hole. The second quarter was a different story and featured Minnesota punching back. The Lynx created pace via some steals of their own and ripped off a 20-6 run to start the period. The enormous Sky lead was briefly cut to just two points! With the score nearly evened, it felt like a new game was beginning. That idea would turn out to be fleeting as the Sky closed the half on a 11-4 run and took a nine point lead to halftime.
Unfortunately for the Lynx their defense was not nearly consistently good enough to hang with this high-octane Sky team. All night long Minnesota over-committed in help defense situations and let Chicago step into wide open threes. The Sky shot 12-26 from beyond the arc and almost none of their attempts were well-contested. Through the first ten games no team in the WNBA gives up more three point attempts than the Lynx and those opponents are shooing the 4th highest long-range percentage in the league when facing Minnesota.
“We certainly did not have the intention to leave people open from three,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said postgame. ”But we literally could not catch up to their pace. They flew around, we were a step slow, there was no communication. We missed assignments everywhere. Getting beat in transition after you do finally score a basket, they’d score the other way. A combination of just really, really bad, unaware no collective will. I don’t know where that came from. I just didn’t see that coming.”
Meanwhile the offensive side of the ball wasn’t much better. Napheesa Collier was her typical do-it-all self, scoring in a myriad of ways. Sylvia Fowles flipped in post up attempts and offensive rebounds alike. But the rest of the Lynx roster was largely MIA when it came to putting the basketball in the goal. Kayla McBride had another forgettable outing while Crystal Dangerfield had a terrible time creating offense for herself. These two combined to go 3-13 from the field. Especially with Aerial Powers out for awhile with injury, the Lynx need more scoring contributions from their backcourt.
Through ten games the first word that comes to mind while thinking about the Lynx is inconsistent. They’ve had nights where they look like they can easily fulfill their “on paper” potential, and then there are nights like Tuesday where they are completely outclassed and seem clueless. To be fair, that inconstancy goes beyond their play on the floor. The injury bug has bitten Minnesota early and often this year and their roster of available players has been fluctuating wildly all season. Despite the adverse conditions, the Lynx are going to have to find a way to pick up the pieces and solider on. Just ask the Chicago Sky.
Cierra Burdick was signed the other day by Minnesota as the team now has four players out with injury. The 6’ 2” forward played just under eight minutes and gave the team some energy while scoring six points.
Lexie Brown returned to Target Center to face her old team after being cut in training camp. The Sky signed her for the rest of the season this week. She’s currently a deep bench player, but a nice option for Wade when they need to juice their lineups with even more shooting.
Kayla McBride has been disappointing. She’s a fantastic perimeter defender but her maximum salary is based on her elite three point shooting ability. Thus far she’s shooting only 34% from range on 55 total threes.
Lynx legend Lindsay Whalen was in attendance with some of her Gopher staff and team. When this fact was revealed on the scoreboard, the arena erupted with excitement. Whalen has to be one of the most revered figures in Minnesota sports history.
Minnesota heads out on a three game road trip that begins Thursday in Dallas. Tip off is set for 7pm and the game can be seen on CBS Sports Network and Bally Sports North.