The Indiana Fever (7-9) and Chicago Sky (6-9) are enduring different experiences along the same path: journeying to the playoffs.
With the WNBA’s top eight teams earning postseason berths, both teams find themselves vying for invitations to the title tourney, with Indiana currently sitting sixth and Chicago sitting half a game behind Phoenix for eighth.
With all-time great Tamika Catchings retiring after the season, the Fever would like to punch her ticket to an 11th-straight postseason. The trouble has been finding support behind Catchings’ team-leading 13.8 points per game. Indiana’s three best shooters (Erlana Larkins, 61.1%; Devereaux Peters, 54.1%; Lynetta Kizer, 52.2%) are averaging a combined 21.8 points. The team’s offense is ranked second to last across the WNBA, putting more pressure on their future Hall of Famer who’s averaging a career-low in minutes (25.6).
Chicago’s misfortune has been centered on close, untimely losses. The Sky have four double-digit losses this season, with three coming against the league-best Sparks and Lynx, who are both challenging the single-season wins mark. The fourth double-digit loss on Chicago’s record? Against the Fever, thanks to Catchings’ 26 points (7-11 FG, 3-4 3PT), five rebounds and four assists.
In that matchup, the Sky were outrebounded by 10, an anomaly for a team grabbing the second-most boards per game (35.7) and surrendering the third-fewest (32.6). Chicago’s mastery of the boards is on par with the same Lynx and Sparks who blew them out by a combined 43 points. The point total for four of their five remaining losses? 18.
Also placing second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.47), the Sky sport the tools playoff contenders strive for, sporting a -0.1 net margin. Their next formidable test comes on July 5, when defending champion Minnesota hosts Chicago in a matchup headlined by Elena Delle Donne and Maya Moore.
EDD’s been her usually-dominant self this season, ranking fourth in scoring (19.8). The reigning MVP’s 40.8 percent 3PT clip is her highest since 2013, but team’s backing her up in key areas. Cappie Pondexter’s 13.5 points are colored by her 38.9 shooting from deep, with Jamierra Faulkner and Courtney Vandersloot masterfully carrying playmaking duties, ranking second and third in assists respectively.
Journeying to the playoffs is equal parts preparation and luck, with wins relying on friendly bounces and losses regretting every minor mistake in hindsight. Fortunately, Indiana and Chicago have plenty time to right their respective ships, but as time elapses, the margin for error dwindles. They meet again September 9, when playoff positioning will prove even more vital.