Sky look to weather the Storm with playoff hopes on the line.
Only three games remain for a team seeking to claim its first postseason berth in franchise history. In their final road game of the regular season, the Sky need to take care of business in Seattle against an improved Storm squad that has already qualified for the playoffs. With the absence of Sylvia Fowles in recent games, three Sky players have increased their production to keep the Sky in the chase -- Courtney Vandersloot, Carolyn Swords and Swin Cash.
Vandersloot has increased her points per game (12.8 ppg.) and assists average (6.1 apg.) despite not having the Sky’s Olympian center to finish around the basket for her. According to Head Coach Pokey Chatman, most players will step up when offensive minded teammates go down and naturally look for their shot. “We talk to her all the time about that, Chatman said. “‘Come off the screen and look to score,’ I tell her. ‘Come off the screen and look to score.’”
Swords, who has moved into the starting center role for Fowles, has performed well with more responsibilities. In the six games where Swords has played 20 or more minutes this season, Swords has averaged 10.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. She has also shot 66.7% from the field, including 85.7% from the charity stripe. Chatman has been pleased with her play: “Carolyn is efficient. She always seems to be in the right place making good screens getting people open, making other people better with her play.”
Cash’s numbers have also gone up. Since September 2, she has averaged 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, many of these points and rebounds in seemingly critical situations. Cash, who helped lead the Storm to a WNBA Championship in 2010, makes her return to Seattle for the first time since being dealt to Chicago on January 2 this year.
All three will need to continue their recent success against a tough Seattle team that is different than the group the Sky blew out on June 13. In that game, the Sky dominated the boards and the scoring to run away at home 74-58.
Times have changed for that Storm team. After the loss to Chicago on June 13, Seattle sat at 1-7 and headed to Tulsa for a make-or-break game. The Storm refused to pack it in however, and would win six of their next seven games to and eventually clinch a playoff berth for a WNBA-record ninth consecutive season in early September. For Chicago, this could mean good news as Storm Head Coach Brian Agler has been resting stars Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright, Ann Wauters and Lauren Jackson on a consistent basis. With the regular season winding down, the Sky could potentially take on a Storm team that will be without two or more of their stars.
Jackson, who missed the entire first half of the season to practice with the Australian national team for the 2012 Olympics, was not available against the Sky in the first meeting and has not played against them in over two years. In nine career games against Chicago, Jackson has been a thorn in the Sky’s side as she has averaged 20.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. If Jackson plays, Chicago will have to slow down the six-foot-six center as she has had her way against the Sky throughout her career. Despite the recent success against Seattle, the Sky still trails in the all-time series, 5-8. Chicago is 1-5 all-time in Seattle.
Tuesday night’s game against the Seattle Storm is slated for a 9 p.m. CDT tipoff. You can catch all the action on WNBA LiveAccess by visiting www.chicagosky.net.