Sky doesn't plan to turn down pressure, despite just eight healthy players
The Sky have built their identity this season around aggressive defense and trying to keep constant pressure on opponents.
That style helped the Sky pull off two comeback victories in three days. They beat Indiana 108-103 in overtime on Tuesday after trailing by 10 in the third quarter. On Sunday, they rallied from 19 points down to win at New York.
What's amazing is the Sky had just eight players available for each game. How long can they keep this up?
"I think our players have a lot of heart," coach James Wade said after Tuesday's home win. "They enjoy playing with each other. We joked about it the other day, we said we have a country club.
"I want to make sure the players we bring in this country club are deserving. We're a tight-knit group. We just want people to come in and build to it."
What Wade was saying is the Sky could add a player with a hardship roster spot, but they haven't found the right fit. Wade joked that he was checking around for potential players on a trip to his neighborhood Jewel Osco.
"We're taking our time, I know, but I'm confident in the eight players we have available," he said. "We're a good squad and we be hooping. We'll get to nine or 10 or however many it is.
"But their collective heart is bigger than people could imagine. I just feel like we're a strong-bonded group. So whether it's eight, six, five, four, it doesn't matter. We're going to be ready to show people something."
All things considered, the Sky minutes totals seemed reasonable in Tuesday's game. Australian forward Alanna Smith led with 39:23, while forward Kahleah Copper logged 38 minutes.
Point guard Marina Mabrey led the Sky with 28 points with Copper at 24. Smith scored a career-high 18 points for the second-straight home game, and sent the game to overtime by hitting a lay-in off a screen-and-roll with Mabrey just before the buzzer sounded.
Guard Dana Evans, the Sky's pressure defense specialist, scored a season-high 20 points and added 3 steals. She talked about creating enough ball pressure to keep it out of the hands of Indiana's 6-foot-5 rookie center Aliyah Boston, who hit 12 of 15 shots for 25 points against the Sky.
"When we're playing really good post players, we've got to have that ball pressure, so that's what I've been focusing on," Evans said. "I feel like this team is really close. We all trust each other and we all have one common goal, which is to win the game. We don't care who scores or who does what, we just want to win."
Two key players for the Sky (5-3) are out indefinitely -- forward Isabelle Harrison (knee) and guard Rebekah Gardner (foot). It sounds like neither is likely to return this season. Forward Kristine Anigwe left to play for England's entry in the European championships, but is expected to return in a few weeks.
Two players could be back relatively soon -- forward Morgan Bertsch is recovering from an ankle sprain, while center Ruthy Hebard is working her way back from giving birth to her son in April. Neither seems likely to play during this weekend's trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
"We're trying to get (Hebard) back as fast as we can, but we know there's a process to it," Wade said. "We're not trying to rush her or put any undo pressure on her.
"I think the most important thing is she's a mom first, athlete second. The mom part is the priority for everybody in the organization."
Sky adds to ownership group:
Six new investors joined the Sky ownership group this week, buying 10% of the team at an $85 million valuation, which would make the Sky the second most valuable WNBA franchise behind Seattle.
All of the new investors are women and the group includes Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, Foot Locker CEO Mary Dillon, Smartly CEO Laura Desmond, Curio Brands CEO Anne Sempowski Ward; Cari Sacks, chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art's board of trustees; and Tina Tchen, chief strategy and impact officer at the Obama Foundation.
Michael Alter will remain the Sky's majority owner. The expectation is the infusion of equity will help the Sky create a team practice facility.