Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sky beat Storm to become first team to clinch spot in 2022 WNBA playoffs

The Sky were back in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon and made it a joyous homecoming with a 78-74 victory over the Seattle Storm in a key matchup between two of the league’s top teams. With that win, the Sky became the first team this season to clinch a spot in the playoffs. 

This was always going to be a tough test for the Sky, but even more so with All-Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot still out of the lineup due to a concussion she suffered in the team’s win over the Los Angeles Sparks last week. It’s unclear when Vandersloot will return, though Sky head coach James Wade noted at practice on Tuesday that she was “feeling good,” lending hope to the idea that she’ll be back soon. 

For as long as she remains out, the Sky will need other players to step up, especially in the playmaking department. Against the Storm, that was Emma Meesseman, who picked a perfect time to play one of her best games of the season. She finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and was instrumental in holding off a late comeback attempt led by Breanna Stewart. 

Meesseman had six points, four rebounds and three assists in the fourth quarter alone, including a crucial bucket with just over one minute remaining. After Stewart had cut the deficit to two, Meesseman drove baseline and faked out Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ezi Magbegor to score a spinning layup and push the lead back to four. 

Thanks in large part to Meesseman’s efforts, the Sky extended their winning streak to five games and clinched their fourth 20-win season in franchise history. With 10 games remaining, the franchise record of 24 wins, which was set back in 2013, is well within reach. 

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In addition to making some franchise history and clinching a playoff spot, the Sky also tightened their grip on first place. They now have a two-game lead on the Las Vegas Aces, who lost on Tuesday to the Atlanta Dream. The two teams will play once more this season to determine the tiebreaker, but the Sky are now in the driver’s seat to earn homecourt advantage throughout the postseason. 

Considering the Sky have the best home record in the league this season at 10-2, and went a perfect 5-0 at home in the playoffs last season, securing homecourt would go a long way towards their repeat efforts. 

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