The Chicago Sky downed the Indiana Fever 78-70 at home to grab their 11th win of the season.
It was just the type of win the Chicago Sky needed heading into the WNBA’s All-Star break.
Dolson’s impact against the Fever was a welcome reminder of just how dominant the versatile 6-foot-5 center can be. Dolson turned up time and time again when the Sky got caught in a rut, attacking the rim and getting them back on track.
She also didn’t hesitate to speak out about calls, which led to a response from Natalie Achonwa.
For Quigley, it was just the fifth time she has taken 13 or more shots in a game—something Chicago fans have been clamoring for since the start of the season. She looked much more active this game running off screens and keeping her feet moving off the ball. To boot, she had an absolute jaw dropper of a triple to bring the Sky within a point in the fourth.
As for Vandersloot, she might have had the quietest 14 assists ever—a testament to how desensitized we have become to her flinging passes 60 feet up the court and contorting her body near the rim for kickouts. She is now averaging 8.5 assists a game, just a hair shy of the 8.6 per game she had last year enroute to setting a WNBA record.
Vandersloot’s current July output is reminiscent of the run she went on last season, except this time she is already averaging 10 assists to three turnovers on an 11-8 team—at this point last July she was averaging 8.4 assists to 3.3 turnovers on a 5-5 team.
To say Vandersloot is crucial to the Sky’s offense is to say Willa Cather was crucial to My Ántonia or that Frank Lloyd Wright was crucial to Falling Water—Vandersloot is both author and architect of one of the league’s best offenses. She has had her hands on just about every win the Sky have had this season, and she figures to be driving force of Chicago’s success moving forward.
The Sky have their work cut out for them after the All-Star break, however.
Nine of their 15 remaining games come on the road, and they have a murderer’s row lineup to face off against.
Chicago will go on road twice to face the Connecticut Sun (12-6), and also have pairs of home-and-home games against the Los Angeles Sparks (10-8), Las Vegas Aces (11-6), Phoenix Mercury (9-8) and Washington Mystics (10-6). Throw in an away game against the Minnesota Lynx (10-8), who have swept the Sky in their two meetings so far, and you have a runway to end the season that may leave Chicago limping to the finish line.
The Sky will have two games against the Atlanta Dream (5-14) in Georgia that may give them a chance to fatten up a bit, but Chicago squeaked by the Dream in their mid-July meeting. That leaves a home game against a capable New York Liberty (8-10) squad also vying for a playoff spot.
In short: Chicago still has a lot of fighting left to do and their margin of error is as slight as ever. Wins like Sunday night’s against the struggling Fever are absolutely essential to keep the season chugging forward, but Chicago needs to come out of the All-Star ready to win some statement games.
Thus far, Chicago’s biggest wins are likely their seven-point win over the Mercury in June and their 93-75 shellacking of the Sun 11 days later, both at home. They also have a pair of wins against the Seattle Storm, but those came in early June and were also home wins.
Chicago will have a chance to prove themselves as a legit team in about a week’s time when they return to action—and they will need to do so to make their playoff push a reality. Since 2016, when the WNBA changed playoff seeding to a strictly record-based format, the eighth-seeded team has won at least 15 games each year.
The Sky are 11-8 now, and will not have an easy road, even to just grab four or five wins. Chicago has a net rating of 0.5 this year and have outscored opposing teams by an average of just half a point—dead center of the pack in both regards.
The question, which has been the question all season, is whether or not the Sky can keep their footing on the slippery slope they find themselves on, and if they can even push past it to lock into a playoff spot early.
That seems like a lofty consideration when one thinks of the amount of reasonable doubt surrounding Chicago at the outset of the season. But the Sky have shown the kind of intangible ability to grind out ugly games that gives them a shot to punch above their weight class—they just need to start landing their knockout blows.
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