Without Delle Donne, Chicago Sky's playoff hopes look dim
It was impressive when the Chicago Sky knocked off the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday at Allstate Arena.
Not only do the Lynx have the best record in the WNBA, but the Sky was without its superstar, Olympian and leading scorer Elena Delle Donne (21.5 ppg), who is out with a thumb injury.
Granted, Minnesota played without starting point guard Lindsay Whalen, also an Olympian. But most would agree the absence of Delle Donne is a bigger disadvantage.
It's a testament to the Sky and the rest of its players that a victory over a team of that caliber was possible.
Now, here's the big question: Can the Sky beat good teams in the playoffs, which start next week, without Delle Donne?
Delle Donne had surgery on her thumb on Tuesday, tweeted a photo of it all bandaged up, and said she'd be "back on the court in no time."
While the Sky and Delle Donne are saying little about her condition and status, I would imagine any injury that requires surgery is not one that can heal in a week.
I suspect that Delle Donne is done until 2017.
There's no doubt the Sky has played well lately, winning six of its last eight games heading into Friday's regular season home finale against the New York Liberty.
Delle Donne's injury clearly comes at a horrible time because in many respects this team has many good things going for it now. There's a strong rotation at point guard with Courtney Vandersloot and Jamierra Faulkner, both of whom rank among the top six assists leaders in the WNBA. Rookie center Imani Boyette has been a pleasant surprise in the starting lineup and makes some clutch contributions.
Veteran forward Tamera Young is playing the best basketball of her career, especially on offense, and forward Cheyenne Parker has become a reliable post player.
Meanwhile, veteran guard Cappie Pondexter, in the twilight of her spectacular career, seems to have found a second wind, and is scoring like a young Cappie.
Yet take away Delle Donne and the Sky isn't the same, no matter how well some others are playing. Take away the best player on any team and the same would be true.
As of today, the Sky would be the fourth seed in the playoffs and get a bye into the second round, a single-elimination home game against Phoenix or Atlanta.
Maybe the Sky could win a single-elimination game without Delle Donne. But winning that second-round game would mean the Sky would advance to the semifinals, which would be a best-of-five series against either Minnesota or Los Angeles, which has the second-best record in the league.
Winning multiple games without Delle Donne against that level of competition is probably not going to happen.
And that's a big thumbs-down for a franchise that has been so close to finally winning a championship in recent years.
• Follow Patricia on Twitter @babcockmcgraw and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.