Sky clinch playoff berth beating Aces 92-84

Playing at home has not been easy for the Sky this season, but Sunday evening in front of 5,210 fans they clinched their third playoff berth beating the Las Vegas Aces 92-84.

The reasons for their 5-8 home record include injury, international play and an inability to close out close games. After returning from a five-game road trip that concluded with a 90-83 loss to the Aces, the Sky wanted this one for their fans.

Their 72% shooting performance well into the second quarter Sunday was a huge improvement from Thursday and they never let up.

The Sky finished shooting 50.7% with 30 team assists.

“This season has been difficult,” Candace Parker said. “You never take for granted clinching a playoff spot in the league that we play in. Obviously, we have our work cut out for us but today we’ll celebrate that.”

When the Sky signed Parker last February, they became instant Championship contenders with the roster they had. Courtney Vandersloot’s court vision, Allie Quigley’s knockdown shooting, Kahleah Copper and Diamond DeShields lethal defensive skills was a recipe for success.

Yet, it wasn’t as simple as adding Parker to the mix. The Sky’s seven-game losing streak followed by a seven-game win streak was the start of a 2021 season that’s been marked by inconsistencies and an inability to play complete games.

Sunday, the Sky looked like a team that could play for a title.

Quigley led the way with 22 points on 61.5% shooting. Parker had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. DeShields finished with 17 and Copper added 14 more. The Sky got to the rim early which was where they struggled Thursday night. Coming into Sunday’s game there was a priority placed on being aggressive and not settling for jump shots and it was the difference-maker.

“We had to come out and have more pride about the way we play,” DeShields said. “Offensively we had to play to our strengths which was getting downhill.”

Defensively the Sky held the Aces to 41% shooting and 38.5% from three. Reigning WNBA MVP A’Ja Wilson was held to 18 points on 33.3% shooting. The Aces were without Dearica Hamby (ankle) and Liz Cambage (health and safety protocols) Sunday night whose defense in the paint was missed by the Aces.

Since the Olympic break, the Sky have gone 5-4. Another indicator of the inconsistencies that they’ve struggled with all season. They followed their most dominant win of the season, beating the Seattle Storm by 32 with a 20 point loss to the Mercury who swept them this year.

The Sky will take the next couple of days off before getting back in the gym in preparation for their final three games of the season against the Washington Mystics, Aces and Indiana Fever. All of which are at home.

The focus needs to remain locked on playing through offensive lulls by getting to the rim and finishing defensive possessions. The amount of practice the team will get between now and the end of the regular season will help with that.

“My main focus is building on this win,” Wade said. “To build on the team chemistry having everybody healthy and available. You saw every player that played tonight was important.”

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