The Chicago Sky lost 89-71 against the Minnesota Lynx in Saturday night’s opener.
Courtney Vandersloot led the offense with six points, four rebounds, eight assists and three steals with four turnovers. Gabby Williams and Kahleah Copper dished in 11 points apiece while Allie Quigley and Jantel Lavender contributed 10 points each.
Diamond DeShields only played in 11 minutes after suffering a head injury in the first half, although she did return in the second. Quigley was forced to matchup to matchup with the Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier in DeShields’ absence, a matchup that did not work out in Chicago’s favor. Collier, a rookie, finished with 27 points on 11 shots in her debut.
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“Well, you know, we certainly liked the matchup, right?” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “I don’t think Quigley really wanted to be on [Napheesa]. I thought that with Diamonds’ foul trouble. You know, we said she can’t foul. So we really started going towards throwing the ball inside to [Napheesa]. And then obviously, when it was Quigley, you know, that made sense to, so we were fortunate, you know, we were able to get the ball where we wanted to get [it] to.”
DeShields’ early absence was only one harbinger of the struggles to come for Chicago. Both the Sky and the Lynx looked to be brushing off some rust in the first quarter, with plenty of fumbled passes and turnovers between the two teams.
Despite sloppy play, Chicago was only down six at the half, but a 10 point third quarter doomed Chicago, who lost big once the Lynx found their groove. The team clearly missed DeShields’ go-to scoring and ability to create offense. Poor shooting in the second half did not help matters. Outside of Vandersloot’s drives to the rim in the pick and roll, Chicago mostly relied on their jump shooting to generate offense.
Wade noted the team’s need to grow and move on, and the first-year head coach made it clear he did not want any fanfare for his debut.
“Honestly, I don’t care,” Wade said of his getting his first game as a WNBA head coach out of the way. “I just want to learn from it. I want us to do better next time. That’s my whole thing. I never made it about me. I think if I did, it would be the wrong move to make. Especially with me being so young as a coach and playing against all these great coaches. It has to be about our team.”
Old habits die hard
Sky fans who followed the team last year saw plenty of negatives return, namely turnovers and poor rebounding.
Chicago turned the ball over 16 times in the game, with 11 of those turnovers coming in the opening half. Turnovers only compounded Chicago’s struggles to build momentum during the game,
A silver lining for the Sky is that many of their turnovers were simply sloppy or lazy passes. Chicago players frequently lost the ball trying to make simple passes with casual execution. A few turnovers also came from obvious gaps in communication common to teams building chemistry early in the season.
Rebounding, however, looked much the same from last year.
While both teams finished with 29 total rebounds, the Lynx dominated the offensive glass with 17 offensive boards. Even when the Sky’s defense stood firm and got a stop, the Lynx were able to create second-chance efforts that broke Chicago’s back during the second half.
The Sky just did not have an answer when shots hit hard off the backboard, and could not stop weak side rebounding. Chicago will need to address their rebounding problem going forward if they hope to field an improved defense.
Space and pace is alive, but improving
Wade preached running and spacing the floor all offseason, and that emphasis was on display Saturday night.
While the Sky only shot 13 threes, well short of their average last year, they also had plenty of long twos that should be easy to correct into triples. Only four different Sky players, however, attempted a three during the game. Whether or not that discrepancy is simply a product of an off night or a trend moving forward remains to be seen.
Chicago did flash some signs of what might make them dangerous going forward through their shot selection. The team did not shy away from shooting in transition and firing early in the shot clock, often on open looks created by swinging the ball around. While they missed on a lot of tho looks in the second half, that three-out alignment combined with early pick-and-roll action could be Chicago’s key moving forward.
Vandersloot shined most on the break, doing her damage on pull up jumpers and by forcing the defense to collapse on her drives, leading to open kick out jump shots. She struggled in the second half, but finished the first with six point and seven assists.
The Sky will look to bounce back at home in their next game against the Seattle Storm on June 1.
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