(Diamond DeShields photo courtesy Chicago Sky official Twitter account)
Given another opportunity to prove they are something more than the best of the rest in the WNBA, the Chicago Sky look to gain ground on a top-four spot Friday night when they begin a two-game swing out west against the Las Vegas Aces.
The Sky (13-9) are angling for their first playoff appearance since 2016 and have matched their win total for all of last season. They are fifth in the league but a combined 1-5 against the four teams above them in the standings, including 0-4 on the road.
Chicago, which will play its next four games against the two teams directly ahead of it – Las Vegas (15-8) and Los Angeles (13-8) – has won back-to-back games after recording a 101-92 victory over the Liberty on Wednesday night.
All-Stars Allie Quigley, Diamond DeShields and Courtney Vandersloot combined for 54 points while Jantel Lavender added 20 and 10 rebounds. The Sky, who set a WNBA record with 42 fourth-quarter points, compensated for an off shooting night from 3-point range – they finished 5 of 22 – by outscoring the Liberty 26-5 at the foul line.
“We have to take these games one game at a time and get some revenge on them,” Quigley told the Chicago Sun-Times about the next two contests. “We lost to them both out west last time, so we have to come with an edge.”
Las Vegas will be well-rested for this contest, having been idle since completing a suspended game Monday night against Washington and losing 99-70. The Aces were unable to make up a 15-point halftime deficit of the originally scheduled July 5 game that was suspended due to an earthquake centered near the Los Angeles area that could be felt at Mandalay Bay.
Kelsey Plum scored 17 points as Aces coach Bill Laimbeer opted not to play Liz Cambage, who had scored 12 points in the first half of the contest. The All-Star forward continued a maintenance program that started with sitting out Saturday’s win at Dallas as Las Vegas had a seven-game home winning streak snapped.
“Obviously, being down 15, you try and be extra aggressive to make something happen,” Plum told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I can definitely take that into next game just realizing that we’ll be more aggressive from the jump.”
Cambage is expected to return for this game, but fellow All-Star A’ja Wilson is expected to miss another two weeks with a sprained ankle suffered July 19. Dearica Hamby totaled eight points and five rebounds in the Mystics game but may be slowing down due to the increased minutes after stepping into Wilson’s spot in the starting five.
Hamby has totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds in her last two contests after averaging 16.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in the first four games after Wilson was sidelined.
This matchup pits the second and third-best offenses in the WNBA as the Sky average 81.7 points and the Aces 80.3, but it was Las Vegas’ defense which made the difference in a 90-82 home victory July 2. The Aces held Chicago to 10 fourth-quarter points and without a basket in the final 5:36 while closing the game on a 12-2 tear.