The Sky Battle the Dream in a Must Win Scenario

The Chicago Sky begin their final home stand, Thursday, against Atlanta for what is sure to be must-see action as they look to clinch their first playoff berth in team history. Chicago and New York are engaged in a heated race to the finish for the East’s fourth and final spot of the WNBA Playoffs, which begin later this month. The Sky have two home games remaining against Atlanta and Washington, while New York splits a home-and-home with Tulsa. Should Chicago finish the season tied with New York, the Liberty will sneak into the postseason by virtue of holding a better conference record after the two teams split four head-to-head matchups. It goes without saying the Sky must finish strong and hope that New York slips up against the Shock.

Thursday marks the fifth time Chicago will face Atlanta this season, with each team winning two apiece. In one of the more memorable clashes of the year, the Sky overcame a 22-point deficit to win, 94-92, in Atlanta on June 2. Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry scored 33 points, but Sky guard Epiphanny Prince matched with 33 of her own, including a 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

That game was a microcosm of a season in which the Sky have demonstrated remarkable resiliency against injuries. Prince, who led the league in scoring in June, is still fourth in the WNBA, averaging 18.4 despite a broken foot that caused her to miss eight games. She’s played in just two games against Atlanta, but those averages of 24.5 points, six rebounds and four assists indicate she’ll have her way with the Dream once again.

Averaging 6.0 assists in her last nine games – most in the league during that span – Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot has rocketed herself into No. 4 among the league’s top dishers. This despite losing two of her top-scoring teammates, Prince and Sylvia Fowles, for multiple games. Even Fowles, who has withstood five missed games because of a leg injury, remains in second place in rebounds (10.4 average).

Late August, Atlanta’s season looked to be in jeopardy when the head coach Marynell Meadors left the team and a player was suspended. But after assistant coach Fred Williams took the reins, the team has bounced back to win six of their last seven – their only loss coming against defending champion Minnesota. McCoughtry has climbed to the top of the league’s scoring leader board with a mark of 21.9 points per game. She missed the Aug. 22 game against Chicago due to personal reasons but in the other three against the Sky, the prolific forward has scored 33, 21 and 25 points.

Dream forward Sancho Lyttle enjoyed a strong game against Chicago on Aug. 22 with 24 points, seven boards and five assists. She’s scored 24, 14, 18 and nine against the Sky this year – well above her average of 14 per game this season. Brazilian center Erika de Souza joined the team in August after representing her home country in the Olympics. In her first game back on Aug. 17, she had 19 points and six rebounds against Chicago, but was much quieter against the Sky five days later with four points and five boards. In her last four games, she’s averaging 13.5 and 8.5, so the Sky will look to keep her from erupting for a double-double. Sharpshooting forward Cathrine Kraayeveld returns to Chicago after playing the past two seasons with the Sky. She’s averaging just 4.8 points per game but remains deadly as ever (41 percent) from the 3-point line.

Tune into Comcast CN100 for all the action at 7 p.m. CT or watch the game on WNBA LiveAccess via www.chicagosky.net.