It's the problem that just won't go away, and that poses an even greater problem.
Once again, the Chicago Sky couldn't solve the Indiana Fever.
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But Friday's 82-77 loss to the Fever at Allstate Arena didn't just add to the Sky's 5-27 lopsided deficit in the all-time series. It also kept the spotlight on a real worry for the Sky as attention begins to shift to the playoffs.
Indiana is the defending WNBA champion but has been so decimated by injuries this season that it will likely fall into the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, that would set the stage for a first-round matchup between the Fever and the Sky, which clinched the top seed in the East last week.
The Sky, now 21-9 and hoping to keep the first playoff run of its eight-year existence going as long as possible, is 1-3 against the Fever this season and 1-8 over the last two seasons.
"I've gone into playoff situations before where you're going up against a team that people say, 'Oh, they really had your number (during the regular season), or they're a really tough matchup for you," said forward Swin Cash, the only Sky player with significant playoff experience. "But in the playoffs, I think teams just really lock in (differently). Whoever our opponent is, we'll take care of it then."
Cash took care of getting a Sky comeback started.
With the Sky down by as many as 16 points in the second half, Cash began to look for her shot more and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Indiana lead to 6 points with 1:15 left. But the savvy defending champs hit free throws down the stretch to keep the Sky at arm's length.
Cash finished with 13 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
She was one of four Sky players in double figures with center Sylvia Fowles setting the pace with 23 points. Guard Epiphanny Prince added 19 points. The Sky was missing starting point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who rolled her ankle during warmups and sat out the game as a precaution.
"You can't wait until late to match someone's intensity," said Sky coach Pokey Chatman, whose team still has a chance to finish with the WNBA's best record and secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. "And with a team like Indiana, you can't just match intensity, you've got to exceed it and that's why we fell short."
Former Stevenson High School star Tamika Catchings had a rough shooting night for Indiana (1-of-13) but still finished with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). Guard Briann January led the way for the Fever with 23 points. Center Erlana Larkins also finished with a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards for Indiana, which improves to 14-16.