The Sky are falling
The Sky / Fever Winless Rivarly Weekend ends with a clear winner, and unfortuntely, a very clear loser. With the back-to-back wins, the Fever inch up to 2-2 respectability, the Chicago Sky are at an awful 0-4, with hard road schedule going forward, facing the Seattle Storm, the Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream.
The Sky have some good pieces put around Olympian Sylvia Fowles. Dominique Canty showed off a few powerful drives and was able to finish. It's unclear why Shameka Christon played so little in Sunday's game (12:38 minutes, lingering neck injury?), she did a reasonable job containing Tameka Catchings when assigned to her and also contributed a few 3s that helped the Sky's best run of game. During that stretch, the Sky were 13-0 in 4 minutes against the Fever's best players.
Amid the team's franchise best home game attendance yet, you'd like them to get home and get some wins in front of their fans. Welcome to the brutality of the WNBA schedule matched with very competitive opponents.
Post-game Audio, Interviews and Links to be posted shortly.
The Fever Introduce: The Shay and Jene Show!
The big story in the two games with the Chicago Sky has not been the lackadaiscal cross-court passing nor the pressure defense the frustrated the Sky's offensive sets, but rather the emergent play of Eshaya Murphy and Jene Morris.
The continued foggy play of the late-returned starters has really opened up continued opportunities for the Fever bench to come in, play well and potentially save games. And such was the case today.
First, it was Jene Morris, who played in the second quarter after getting no playing time the night before. Jene Morris came into a 14-14 tie game with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Murphy just checked in a minute earlier. For the next nine minutes, it was all Jene Morris and Shay Murphy. Morris nailed a 3 from the corner. Murphy rebounded a miss by the Sky's Tamera Young. Morris hits a 15-footer. Jene Morris and Tamera Young trade steals to end the first quarter. In more than a few cases, Jene Morris made scores out of stagnant possessions.
Looking at the stat-sheet, it's just all Murphy-Morris everywhere. In the second quarter, Murphy grabs a few more rebounds and makes a shot off a Morris assist. Morris is scoring as well from the corner, once on a driving layup and once more with another 3 pointer. Morris gets in another assist and a rebound before the pair are substituted out with 4 minutes to go in a the second quarter and the Fever are up 33-27.
With the Fever starters back in, the Sky went on a 13-0 tear that best models what they need to perfect. Shameka Christon made her 3 pointers, Sylvia Fowles got the ball inside for layups and fouls, Cathrine Kraayeveld did all her damage in this stretch as well with a 3, a layup and hitting 2 from the charity stripe. The half ended with the Sky up 39-33.
In the third quarter, Coach Dunn started Murphy to get the Fever back into the game. Offensively, Murphy was rather ineffective, but still active in getting rebounds. The team went on another push once Jene Morris substituted in with 5 to go in the quarter.
What's the outlook for the Murphy-Morris lineup?
First, the game was a great one for Jene Morris. Her play on both ends of the court means that she may wrest playing time from turnover-prone Allie Quigley.
For Shay Murphy, this weekend back-to-back has been a great one. 36 minutes, 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists on Saturday followed by 25 minutes, 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists on Saturday. Her field goal percentage could be better, but her rebounding from the perimeter is huge.
Now, to be sure, there's nothing necessarily surprising with Shay Murphy's uncanny rebounding, she's averaged 10 rebounds per 40 minutes her entire career, but now Shay Murphy has shown she can sustain her short-minute rebounding productivity over the longer stretches.
Overall the Murphy-Morris combination just killed this game. Both players are earning more playing time. We know the Fever starters will continue to get back into Fever form, but Shay Murphy and Jene Morris represent new weapons for this ballclub. Fans can only hope for an encore.
At the end of the game, we saw another small backcourt for the Fever. Coach Lin Dunn closed the game Tully Bevilaqua and Briann January on the court for their defense, to lock in the win. Overall, Coach Dunn seems pleased with her perimeter player options and may continue to mix-and-match to see what different combinations can deliver.
While both teams had considerable trouble passing the ball in their halfcourt offenses, the impact of the Fever's pressure defense had a greater impact on the Sky's plans. Turnovers remained high on both sides, but the inability of the Sky to get the ball into the Sylvia Folwes made their best player shockingly ineffective.
Indiana's pressure defense was in full effect in this game. The Fever's pressure and anticipation was outstanding. The box score fails to show the number of deflections nor the number of times Fever players got their hands on balls. The Fever's pressure defense also required the Chicago Sky's offense to give up considerable ground in the halfcourt. Besides denying Sylvia Fowles, a pass around the perimeter would require a player at the foul line to run back to the arc to receive the pass, or if at the arc, to run almost all the way back to the half court line to receive the pass or risk a deflection, turnover and a fast-break uncontested lay-up at the other end.
Appreciation for Tammy Sutton-Brown's Defense
Tammy Sutton-Brown received little post-game interest from the media corps. As another struggling starter with an odious stat-line of 1 point on 0-1 shooting and 5 turnovers, what was easily forgotten was her defense against Sylvia Fowles, one of the best bigs in the game.