The Chicago Sky look to complete a sweep of their two-game road swing and remain in the hunt for a bye into the second round of the playoffs Tuesday night when they face the Minnesota Lynx, who can clinch a postseason spot with a victory.
Chicago (18-11) is one-half game behind Los Angeles and Las Vegas for third with five games to play and would clinch a bye into the second round overtaking either team. The Sky, though, would have to finish with a better record since they have lost the season series to the Sparks and Aces.
They also close the season in brutal fashion with road games at top-two teams Connecticut and Washington, which makes the next three contests almost must-win games to have any chance at claiming that bye. Chicago began this trip with a 94-86 victory over Phoenix on Sunday as Allie Quigley scored 24 points, and the Sky withstood a 34-point effort from Mercury All-Star center Brittney Griner.
Courtney Vandersloot once again came close to recording a triple-double, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds and 13 assists. The All-Star guard is five assists away from matching her single-season WNBA record of 258 set last year with five games to spare as Chicago showed no letdown from knocking off Washington at home in its previous game.
“We’ve known all along that we can compete with the best teams in the league,” Vandersloot told The Athletic recently. “This is the proof. We can say it over and over again, but until you do it … moving forward, this gives us a lot of confidence. … We have to see Minnesota again. We have a really tough schedule, so we have to beat a lot of really good teams going forward. It’s going to prepare us really well for the playoffs.”
Minnesota (15-15) is on the verge of reaching the postseason for the ninth straight year, needing either one win or one loss by the Fever down the stretch. The Lynx are seeking their first three-game win streak since July 2-10 after putting together one of their most complete 40-minute efforts of the season in a 98-77 rout of Las Vegas on Sunday.
Danielle Robinson and Rookie of the Year candidate Napheesa Collier scored 23 points apiece for Minnesota, which broke open the game with a 20-4 run in the third quarter. Collier, who is vying with Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale for rookie honors, has averaged 16.5 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent over her last six games.
“This team we saw tonight, we know we can do this every single game,” Collier told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after scoring 16 second-half points and totaling six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. “It’s about coming out strong and executing.”
The Lynx have won four of their last six at home, with both losses coming to first-place Washington.
Minnesota has won both games between the teams this year, edging out the Sky 73-72 on the road in the most recent matchup July 10. Odyssey Sims scored 16 points and hit a go-ahead jumper with 6.4 seconds to play for the Lynx, while Quigley matched a career high with six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points.
The Lynx opened the season with an 89-71 home win as Collier scored 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting in her WNBA debut.
(Astou Ndour and Stefanie Dolson photo courtesy Chicago Sky official Twitter account)