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Preview: Sky set to begin semifinal series vs. Sun

The defending champions are expected to win, but a familiar opponent will make them work for it.

Chicago Sky v Connecticut Sun Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Following their expected first-round triumph over New York, the Sky now take on a tougher but familiar opponent in the Connecticut Sun to kick off the semifinals. With home court advantage, a vibrant All-Star starting five, a deep bench, and a regular-season sweep of the Sun, the Sky should be poised to come away victorious. However, it won’t come without a fight.

The Sky and Sun have developed a rivalry over the last three years that has resulted in some intense playoff action. In the Wubble in 2020, it was the Sun who came away victorious in the single-elimination playoff game, but at that time the Sky didn’t have Candace Parker or Emma Meesseman. Last year, the Sky, with Parker at the helm, pulled off the upset over the Sun en route to their first WNBA title. Throughout this season, the Sky have swept the Sun in four games, but each time Connecticut gave them a run for their money.

In each of the four games, the margin of victory was in single digits, with the two most recent matchups ending by a margin of three points — one went to overtime. On June 29, the Sky jumped out to a quick 32-16 lead after the first and led 55-33 at the half. Then the Sun came out (pardon the pun) and put on a clinic in the third quarter, 22-13. Even though the Sky came away with the victory 91-83, they understood that Connecticut was for real.

The question that will be raised as this series begins has been uttered throughout the season. That is whether the Sky’s explosive offense, which likes to run right off the bat to get out to a huge lead, will be able to hold onto that advantage now that it is crunch time?

Furthermore, the Sky do have to deal with the Sun’s defense, the fourth-best defense in the league to be exact, which has proven to neutralize Chicago’s weak points when under pressure. They also have a similar high-scoring offense led by Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones, who all have a shooting percentage over 50 percent when playing against the Sky.

But overall the Sky just have much more depth to them, especially when you have the dynamic play of Rebekah Gardner, Azurá Stevens, and Julie Allemand coming off the bench and making tremendous contributions. Plus, they have shown that they love it when the pressure is on.

The Sky have played much more pressure packed games (23) and minutes (104) this year and they have three of the top seven clutch players: Courtney Vandersloot (57 points, third), Candace Parker (44 points, fifth) and Kahleah Copper (42 points, tied for sixth).

With the goal of becoming the first repeat champions in the WNBA since the 2001 and 2002 Los Angeles Sparks still to be attained, the Chicago Sky have all the pieces together to make it happen. They are exactly where they wanted to be and where everyone expected them to be. Standing in their way is a team with an equal share of profound talent and zest in the Connecticut Sun who will make them sweat on every play.

It is anticipated to be a competitive series that will be in keeping with the ethos of coming down to wire, but expect the Sky to come away victorious in five games and for that coveted title of back-to-back champions to be within their grasp.

Game 1 is Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. CT at Wintrust Arena.