Shorthanded Sky plays without Copper, loses on jumper in final second
The Sky has been testing the limits of playing short-handed this season, then took it to a new level on Thursday against Indiana.
Top scorer Kahleah Copper missed the game due to personal reasons, which meant the Sky were without five players who would have been starters or high in the rotation. They built a 9-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but seemed to run out of gas and lost 92-90 when Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell hit a 21-foot jumper with 0.9 seconds left at Wintrust Arena.
Sky guard Marina Mabrey scored a career-high 36 points. Guard Dana Evans added 21 and twice put the Sky ahead in the final 1:09 by hitting shots in the lane. Evans was fouled with 7.5 seconds left and hit 1 of 2 shots to tie the score at 90-90.
"We didn't win the game," Sky coach James Wade said. "When we coach, we coach to win the game, we don't coach to get close because Kahleah's not on the floor. It's no victory in Kahleah not playing and us getting close enough. It doesn't matter. Close enough doesn't get you anything."
Mabrey, who hit 6 of 11 shots from 3-point land, was a little more forgiving of the circumstances.
"As much as I would have liked to win the game, as our whole team would have, there's also some bright spots here like finding chemistry and just kind of going with what we have," she said. "We're missing Kahleah and she's a really good player."
Wade said he doesn't think Copper's absence would be a long-term situation, but wasn't certain. He did take exception to the 24-11 difference in free-throw attempts during Thursday's game.
"I'm so sick and tired, this (stuff) keeps me up at night," Wade said. "Because we go into a game and we know how it's going to be called and I can't save them. You see my demeanor on the side. First quarter, I'm low-key and then after, I don't know what to do.
"So I'm tired, like physically tired. If Marina gets her arm up, it's an offensive foul every time. Every single time, even if it's nothing. We work on it every day. It's a part of the vitamins that we have. So all a player has to do is jump and they get a foul called, and then I get told, maybe I missed it. It's just so emotionally draining."
Mabry and Robyn Parks (13 points) finished the game with 5 fouls. Parks started in Copper's place. The Sky is still without Morgan Bertsch (ankle) and Ruthy Hebard (maternity return). Those players are expected to return, while Isabelle Harrison (knee) and Rebekah Gardner (foot) could be out for the year.
The Sky added two new players last weekend, 6-5 Khallia Hillsman and 5-11 Taylor Soule, but neither played. Mabrey and Alanna Smith were on the floor for more than 38 of the 40 minutes.
Another Wade could join Sky:
NBA legend and Chicago-area native Dwyane Wade was at Sky practice on Tuesday, met the players and posed for a group photo. His presence suggests he could be the next high-profile investor in the team.
Sky coach James Wade is a Memphis native, but a cousin of Wade. Coach Wade called Dwyane Wade the "GOAT" of Chicago-born players.
"I would love for him to be part of our organization," James Wade said. "He's one of my favorite people. He's someone I've cheered for for a long time. He's just a great guy, great family He's stands for what Chicago stands for, he stands for what the Sky stands for, that's togetherness and family. If he can be a part of that, that would make me happy."
The Sky announced six new investors about a week ago. The team has said its aim is to create a dedicated practice facility. The Sky currently practices at the Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield.