The Sky had a team meeting after their 33 point loss to the Aces on Friday where they discussed the need to return to a more joyful style of play, among other things.
Sky coach and general manager James Wade said he wanted to see his team play with each other and for each other in Sunday night’s game against the Indiana Fever.
Instead, the Sky went into the half tied at 46 with the last-place Fever and looked distracted on the court. The team failed to get into any kind of rhythm until the third quarter.
An explosive second-half performance from Diamond DeShields helped propel the Sky to a 98-87 win. DeShields tied her career-high points scoring 30 off the bench.
“This was their last regular-season game,” DeShields said. “You don’t ever want to play down energetically, but trying to be self-motivated today I think had something to do with [the slow first half.]”
Guard play was a focus Sunday evening and a good warmup for the Sky’s first-round playoff game against the Dallas Wings. The Wings guards exploited the Sky at the three-point line in both wins this season. Coming into Sunday’s game the assignment was for the Sky’s backcourt to rebound and make Kelsey Mitchell uncomfortable.
The Sky failed at taking Mitchell out of her game and their rebounding was nonexistent aside from the combined 15 boards Allie Quigley and DeShields pulled down. Mitchell had 15 points in the first half and finished shooting 70.6% for 32 points.
Emma Cannon got to the rim all night, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“We should have got to [Mitchell’s] threes a little bit more,” Wade said.
The Sky host the Wings Thursday at 7 p.m. in a single-elimination game that will be broadcast on ESPN2.
The Wings won two of their three regular-season games against the Sky. Defending the three-point line is going to be a point of emphasis on Thursday. In both games the Wings won, they shot 50% or better from three. In their loss they were 6-for-25 from three.
“What you want to do is make them increase their shot volume so their efficiency is low,” DeShields said. “And then neutralize the rest of their teammates. You have to focus on Arike [Ogunbowale]. She’s a great scorer but I think we have the pieces to do it right.”
Defending Satou Sabally and Isabelle Harrison in the post will be another key. Sabally missed eight straight games with an achilles injury before returning to the Wings lineup Sunday night in their 87-84 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sky need to limit their offensive boards. In their four-point loss to the Wings on Aug. 17 the Sky gave up 15 offensive boards and were outrebounded 45-32.
DeShields said they can live with the Wings post players having a night if they neutralize Ogunbowale, Allisha Gray and the rest of the Wings explosive backcourt.
The New York Liberty secured the No. 8 seed after the Sparks and the Washington Mystics both lost their final regular-season games. If the Sky are able to make it past the first round, they will have either the Minnesota Lynx or the Seattle Storm waiting for them.
“We have to have a sense of urgency and treat every game like it’s our last,” Wade said. “That’s how it’s going to be until we get into a series.”