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updated: 9/27/2013 9:13 PM

Lack of playoff experience may have been Sky's undoing

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  • Sky forward Elena Dell Donne takes a shot over the defense of Indiana Fever guard Karima Christmas during Game 2 of the WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals.

      Sky forward Elena Dell Donne takes a shot over the defense of Indiana Fever guard Karima Christmas during Game 2 of the WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals.
    Associated Press

 
 

It's a shame, but not shocking, to see the WNBA playoffs march along without the Chicago Sky.

For the first time in its eight-year history, the Sky qualified for a spot in the playoffs. But instead of making a big postseason splash to match its magical regular season, the Sky made a big ol' thud, face first. The Indiana Fever swept them in two games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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I've read the message boards and the tweets and some fans are disgusted that the top-seeded Sky allowed the fourth-seeded Fever -- an older team that was hurt by injuries this season -- to easily impose its will.

I can't blame them. It was frustrating to watch some of the Sky's most capable players look overwhelmed and overmatched with a deer-in-the-headlights look at times.

Part of it may be the hold that Indiana holds over the Sky, which went 1-5 against the Fever this season and is now 6-29 in the all-time series.

The Sky sees the Fever as a stumbling block, but this team simply has to get over it. Period.

The Fever is beatable, which the Atlanta Dream proved on Thursday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

I think an even bigger issue for the Sky is "playoff experience." The Sky didn't have it, and the defending WNBA champion Fever had plenty.

You wonder if the term "playoff experience" is a bit cliché and overrated when assessing a team's odds for future success. But I think the Sky's lack of it -- as a franchise and on an individual level -- clearly hurt it.

Swin Cash was the only player on the Sky roster with any significant playoff experience. She won three WNBA titles in Detroit and Seattle before she arrived here. Reserves Shay Murphy and Allie Quigley played in a combined five playoff games before getting to Chicago, but neither played significant minutes in those games.

Other than that, nothing. Everyone else was a newbie.

And like the new kid in school, the Sky often looked unsure, unconfident and nervous against the Fever. The Sky's wilting under the bright lights of the playoffs affected everything from shooting to defensive assignments to ball-handling to body language.

Quite a contrast from what fans saw this season from this talented group.

Center Sylvia Fowles was the WNBA's defensive player of the year and earned first-team all-WNBA honors. Elena Delle Donne was sensational and won Rookie of the Year by unanimous vote. She was also second-team all-WNBA.

Epiphanny Prince established herself as one of the league's better shooting guards and point guard Courtney Vandersloot, with the best season of her three-year career, was one of the league leaders in assists.

And yet none of that was enough to get 1 playoff win.

Maybe having "been there" now, and knowing "what it takes" will help the Sky do more next season.

If not, I'm not sure what else there will be to blame.

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw and contact her via email at pbabcock@dailyherald.com.

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