Chicago Sky Schedule Preview: June 26 - July 1

Something to build upon for the young Sky?

If it seems like it's been weeks since the Sky last won a game...well, that's because it has been. Chicago last recorded a victory on June 3 (a game in which they barely held off the Las Vegas Aces), and this past week didn't start off much better.

Two games against Washington yielded two more losses; the Sky lost all three of their games against the Mystics last season by an average of nearly 20 points per game, and this week resulted in more of the same. Chicago mustered an eFG% of just 34.4% in Washington en route to a 28-point loss, then gave up 30 points to Elena Delle Donne at home in the second game of the away/home split.

What the Sky found in that game, however, was a way to use their quickness to their advantage. Head coach Amber Stocks employed a full-court press after the half in an attempt to get back into the game (which the Sky were then trailing 64-39), and it was surprisingly effective; Chicago cut the deficit to as little as six points late in the game before running out of gas. 

While such a defensive strategy should only be expected of the Sky in short bursts, it seemed to jump-start the young roster, which played a step quicker against the Phoenix Mercury. The Sky outshot and out-rebounded the Mercury in a chippy game; Brittney Griner was ejected after committing a hard foul, but the young Chicago team kept their composure, running the Mercury off the floor while Allie Quigley outdueled Diana Taurasi in a matchup of two of the WNBA's top shooters.

Not only was the win a confidence booster, but it was also something to build upon as this youthful Sky team continues to search for an identity. They continue to struggle on defense - their 107.9 points allowed per 100 possessions ranks dead last in the WNBA - but they're able to apply pressure when needed and get to the foul line when their offense stalls. In particular, rookies Diamond DeShields (now sporting goggles after getting hit in the eye against Washington) and Gabby Williams excel at this.

More good news: Chicago is finally at full strength. Center Stefanie Dolson is back from a strained tendon; her shooting was an important factor against the Mercury and should continue to be moving forward. It's now up to Stocks to figure out how to properly distribute minutes between Dolson and Cheyenne Parker, whose career-best season continues.

Wednesday, June 27: vs Atlanta Dream (11 am CT)

The Sky catch the Dream at a favorable spot here, and that's not just because they'll be aided by thousands of rowdy campers. Atlanta has been without guard Tiffany Hayes for the past week, and their struggling offense misses her ability to create off the bounce.

The bad news for the Sky is that this means more Angel McCoughtry. The Olympian has stepped up in Hayes' absence, scoring 25 and 39 points in her last two contests. Atlanta's halfcourt defense has been among the best in the WNBA this season, so in the event of a low-scoring game, the Sky are going to need to keep McCoughtry out of the paint to give themselves a chance at victory - though that's far easier said than done.

Friday, June 29: at New York Liberty (6:30 pm CT)

The Liberty continue to play subpar basketball, but in contrast to their early season struggles, they might now have more players than they can manage at once. With Epiphanny Prince, Sugar Rodgers, Brittany Boyd, and Kiah Stokes all returning from injury around the same time, head coach Katie Smith has had to significantly expand her rotation. While this means fresh legs for New York, it also means a lack of offensive continuity; Chicago must take advantage of this and look to force Liberty turnovers. 

Sunday, July 1: vs New York Liberty (5 pm CT)

For the second time in as many weeks, the Sky are facing the same team twice in a row in an away/home split. New York's extensive rotation might mean they make wholesale adjustments for this one, but it's also a good opportunity for the Sky defense to get on track. Aside from Tina Charles, the Liberty haven't had a consistent second scorer this season.

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