Disruptive defense is key to Sky's 2-0 start

How far can defense take the Sky?

Well, so far, it's led to a 2-0 start, but the Sky likely faces a tougher task Friday, facing Washington and ex-Sky star Elena Delle Donne in the home opener at Wintrust Arena.

In those two Sky victories, over Minnesota and Phoenix, the opponents averaged 67.5 points and 20 turnovers, shot 37% from the field and 27.5% from the 3-point line.

After beating Phoenix last Sunday, leading scorer Kahleah Copper interrupted coach James Wade during the postgame interviews so she could praise the defense of teammate Dana Evans.

"Dana is not getting credit on the stat sheet, but she set the tone for us defensively in Minnesota," Copper said. "No, she didn't hit the shots, but without her playing as hard as she played defensively, wearing them out, them not wanting to bring the ball up, we've got nothing."

Copper then turned and addressed Evans, a 5-6 guard from Gary, Indiana, directly.

"Major credit to you on that. I don't think you understand how you really set the tone defensively for us and what you do for us," Copper said. "That plays a big role, more than shots going in."

No one was quite sure what to expect from the Sky this season after heavy roster turnover, losing Candace Parker (to Las Vegas), Courtney Vandersloot (New York), Allie Quigley (retirement), Emma Meesseman (skipping WNBA season) and others.

So far, the Sky has looked like the team they envisioned before the season. They're younger, quicker, able to lock in on defense and run the floor after creating turnovers. The team has had a noticeable speed advantage with Copper, Evans and newcomer Courtney Williams.

"Everybody knows me as a scorer, but I want to be known as being able to do everything," Williams said this week. "Defense is not a chemistry thing, to be honest. Defense is an effort thing. As long as you playing hard, this person playing hard, this person playing hard, defense is universal. It's just who is going with the most effort."

Williams leads the Sky with 5.5 assists per game. Copper is the top scorer at 17.5 points. Center Elizabeth Williams is also off to a nice start, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Alanna Smith (10.5 points) and Rebekah Gardner (8.5 points) have been aggressive with the second unit.

Evans started against Phoenix when guard Marina Mabrey was a late scratch with a foot injury. Mabrey is not listed on the injury report for Friday's game.

"Being disruptive - we talk about that a lot, we practice it a lot," Evans said. "I just want to get (the opponent) out of a set. Just me pressuring the ball, taking the time off the clock, being disruptive as much as I can, turning them in the backcourt. It's something I've been focusing on a lot, just defensively getting in the stance and making stuff happen."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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