Sky look to start fresh with home stand against Atlanta
The Chicago Sky can thank the London Olympics for a much needed, month-long period away from basketball in which the team has been able to step back, reflect on the first half of the season and draw up a plan of attack for Part Two. It begins with an Aug. 17 home matchup against the defending Eastern Conference champions Atlanta Dream, a team Chicago has found success against in the first two meetings this year. The Sky rebounded from deficits in both games versus Atlanta – including a franchise-record 22-point comeback on June 2 – and won by just two points in each contest. Needless to say, the Dream are out for revenge.
Chicago’s first half of the season can be further divided into a tale of two halves, with a devastating injury to leading scorer Epiphanny Prince on June 16 serving as the defining turning point. The Sky burst out of the gates to a 7-1 record behind Prince’s late-game heroics and league-leading 23.4 points per game. When Prince broke her right foot early in a game against Indiana, the Sky never recovered without her indispensable contributions to the offense, reverting to a 1-8 finish heading in to the break. At 8-9, the Sky are clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot, percentage points behind Atlanta’s 9-10 showing. A win by the Sky against the Dream secures the tiebreaker for making the playoffs with Atlanta and could prove to be significant as the season progresses.
Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry returns from London getting much praise for her outstanding performance for Team USA. She also has been phenomenal against the Sky this season. McCoughtry scored 33 and 21 points, respectively, against Chicago this year and currently leads the league in scoring with an average of 22.6 points – just ahead of Prince’s 22.3. The Sky will also need to keep a lookout for Atlanta’s second-leading scorer, Sancho Lyttle, who dropped 18 points in the teams’ meeting on July 1. Fearsome center Erika de Souza returns to action after missing the first 19 games to play with the Brazilian national team, and point guard Lindsey Harding continues to jumpstart an offense capable of putting up 100 points or more, as Atlanta has done a league-high three times this season. Harding has fared well against Chicago, averaging 14.5 points and 4.5 assists for both stints.
With Prince progressing towards an August 17 return, the Sky will continue to refine roles and smooth out the kinks created by her absence. All-Star and Olympic champion Sylvia Fowles traveled to London with teammate and fellow Olympian Swin Cash, and will have benefited from their experience playing with the world’s best players. Fowles is expected to be ready to pick up where she left off in July, scoring more than 20 points in four of the Sky’s last five games. Tipoff for Sky vs. Dream is 7:30 p.m. on August 17.