Sky needs one win this weekend to clinch playoff berth

The task awaiting the Sky this weekend is crystal clear.

With two games remaining in the WNBA regular season, the Sky has a slight edge for the final playoff spot. The Los Angeles Sparks lost to New York on Thursday, dropping a half-game behind the Sky. Since the Sky holds the tiebreaker, one more win or another Sparks loss clinches eighth place.

Kahleah Copper put the Sky in the driver's seat on Aug. 29 by hitting a driving layup with 22.1 seconds left, the winning basket in a 76-75 victory at Los Angeles, which clinched the season series.

The reward for making the playoffs is a first-round date with the No. 1 seed, likely the Las Vegas Aces, which are on pace to finish with one of the top-four regular-season winning percentages in WNBA history.

According to Copper, a challenging playoff trip to Las Vegas is irrelevant for the Sky right now.

"It doesn't matter who the opponent is," Copper said after Thursday's practice in Deerfield. "When you're a winner and you're used to winning and having success, I want to make the playoffs. That's a big thing. There's four teams that are not going to make it and not have a chance to compete against anybody. I don't care who we play."

The task continues Friday with the Sky's last home game of the regular season against Minnesota. That's followed by a visit to Connecticut on Sunday afternoon. The Lynx (19-19) are still battling for playoff seeding. The Sun (26-12) is locked into the No. 3 seed and has nothing to play for.

The Sky (16-22) has gone 4-2 in its last six games, including a 27-point win at Indiana on Tuesday.

"I think right now at this point we're kind of realizing how far our backs are against the wall and how we actually can control our own destiny," Copper said. "I think we feel the pressure and we're stepping up and coming together."

It's been a tumultuous season, which began with the Sky losing two key players to injury, forward Isabelle Harrison and defensive specialist Rebekah Gardner. Then head coach and general manager James Wade departed on July 2 to take a job with the Toronto Raptors, leaving assistant Emre Vatansever in charge.

"I think we're in physically and mentally a good place," Vatansever said. "They're locked in. I don't have to talk to them a whole lot about the situation, they're well aware. They know where we are at right now and they play with desperation and a sense of urgency. I feel like we have very good harmony at the correct time."

The injuries clearly put a damper on the Sky's team success, but there have been positive individual stories. Copper has averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game and was an all-star for the third straight year.

Point guard Marina Mabrey had her best season in the WNBA, Courtney Williams expanded her game with a team-leading 6.0 assists, while Australian power forward Alanna Smith is a candidate for the Most Improved Award.

Vatansever pointed out to his players the Sky is 10-2 when recording at least 23 assists. When the Sky won the WNBA title in 2021, it finished the regular season with a 16-16 record, so anything is possible.

"We're playing well right now," Copper said. "Once we get to the playoffs, it's 0-0. So it's all up for grabs."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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