James Wade has coached in some memorable games in Minneapolis, including the 2017 WNBA Finals when he was part of Cheryl Reeve’s coaching staff.
Ahead of Sunday’s second-round playoff game against the third-seeded Lynx, Wade said he hadn’t put too much thought into coaching against Reeve in the playoffs for the first time. After leading his team to an 89-76 win against the Lynx and the Sky’s first semifinal appearance since 2016 Wade had some thoughts.
“[This game ranks] really high,” Wade said. “I would say at the top. Professionally, this is the greatest gift I’ve been given leading the Sky.”
The Sky came into a rocking Target Center.
Part of the team’s game plan was being aggressive in the paint and they succeeded in that through all four quarters. In the Sky’s last meeting with the Lynx, Azura Stevens had five points on three shot attempts. The Sky needed more from her Sunday and they got it.
Stevens had no problem backing down 2021 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Sylvia Fowles in the paint. She finished with 15 points on 44% shooting and had eight rebounds. She played a critical role in limiting the Lynx to just six offensive rebounds.
Courtney Vandersloot led the Sky’s balanced attack that had five Sky players score in double figures, none of whom were Candace Parker who had eight points and four rebounds. Vandersloot finished with 19 points, five assists and five rebounds. Kahleah Copper had a double-double scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 boards. Allie Quigley added 11 points and Diamond DeShields had 14 on 80% shooting.
The Sky outscored the Lynx 48-32 in the paint.
“They know who they are,” Reeve said. “They were so persistent in their identity and we could break that.”
All season the Sky have struggled to put a complete game together. Following their first-round game against the Wings, Wade said he was happy with everything but his team’s third-quarter performance.
Against the Lynx, the Sky played a complete game, winning every quarter except the first which they lost by one point.
Clicking at the right time has been the message the Sky have preached since the Olympic break. The first two rounds of the playoffs are proof that they are.
“We have talented players,” Wade said. “And maybe they go somewhere else and can do more but they are bought in to everybody stepping up for their moment.”
Fowles was honored before the game with her fourth WNBA DPOY award, joining Tamika Catchings as the only player in league history to win it four or more times.
The Sky struggled to limit her touches in the first half but had her number in the second. She finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Aerial Powers came up big for the Lynx finishing with 24 points. Powers led a Lynx run that cut the Sky’s lead to four in the fourth quarter. Quigley responded with a three in the corner off the assist from Vandersloot. The Sky had an answer for every Lynx attempt to cut their lead.
Next, the Sky will head to Connecticut to play the No. 1 Sun in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals on Sept. 28. The Sun boasts the best defensive rating in the league through the regular season with four of their players named to the WNBA’s all-defensive first or second team.
If the Sky can continue to involve all of their offensive weapons, the Sun will be forced to pick their poison.
“We’re exactly where we want to be playing the best basketball of the season,” Vandersloot said.