The Chicago Sky look to wrap up a critical four-game stretch to their playoff ambitions with three wins Sunday night when they attempt to post a second victory over the Las Vegas Aces in a nine-day span.
The Sky (15-10) are tied with the Los Angeles Sparks for fourth, which carries a bye into the second round. The third-place Aces are not out of sight for James Wade’s team, as a victory would pull Chicago within one-half game of Las Vegas and the head-to-head tiebreaker for seeding purposes.
Chicago quickly avenged its loss to Los Angeles last week with a 91-81 home triumph Friday night. Allie Quigley scored 26 points to lead a balanced attack as five players finished in double figures. Courtney Vandersloot chipped in 17 points and nine assists, with six of her points coming in a game-closing 11-2 burst by the Sky.
It was the first game without starting forward Jantel Lavender, who was lost for the season after undergoing surgery for a foot injury earlier in the week. Lavender, who averaged 10 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds, was also one of the team’s vocal leaders with postseason experience as a title winner with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.
“It’s tough,” Vandersloot, the league’s assist leader, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The timing is never ideal to lose a big player like that but we really had things rolling, she was starting to play really well for us, and that was huge.”
Las Vegas (17-9) is still in the hunt for the top seed in the playoffs, trailing Washington by two games with eight to play and has won back-to-back games since its 87-84 home loss to Chicago on Aug. 9. The Aces, who can clinch their first postseason berth in franchise history since 2014 with a victory, are coming off a 94-90 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday night.
Dearica Hamby had 23 points and 16 rebounds, scoring 13 of her points in the third quarter when the Aces regained control of the game after letting a 13-point first-quarter lead turn into a six-point halftime deficit. Liz Cambage contributed 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, anchoring a defense that limited Atlanta to 5-of-19 shooting in the final quarter.
“Our toughness and our effort was just a little bit better in the fourth,” Aces guard Kayla McBride told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s really hard playing three games in six days, and doing it repeatedly. It really takes a lot of mental toughness and effort and togetherness. I thought we showed that tonight.”
Vegas’ backcourt trio of McBride, Kelsey Plum, and rookie Jackie Young had all sorts of issues containing Vandersloot at Mandalay Bay as the Sky’s All-Star point guard had 16 points and 13 assists with only three turnovers.
Cambage, though, did have one of her best games of the season with 28 points and 11 rebounds. It came after a two-game absence, which she later revealed in a first-person article for The Players’ Tribune was part of her on-going battle with depression. That game started a streak of three double-doubles for the All-Star center in which she has averaged 22.3 points on 53.2 percent shooting and 11.0 rebounds.
(Kahleah Cooper photo courtesy Chicago Sky official Twitter account)