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Chicago Sky earn first preseason victory of 2023, defeating Indiana Fever at home

In front of a crowd of season ticket holders, the Chicago Sky used an aggressive defensive scheme and balanced scoring to defeat the Indiana Fever and even their preseason record at 1-1.

Indiana Fever v Chicago Sky
Isabelle Harrison (far right) led the Chicago Sky in scoring with 15 points. Rebekah Gardner (left) and Dana Evans (far left) both added 12.
Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

On Sunday, the Chicago Sky defeated the Indiana Fever in convincing fashion, 81-56, to earn their first preseason victory of 2023. Isabelle Harrison led Chicago in scoring with 15 points, while Kelsey Mitchell paced the Fever with nine points. Rookie Aliyah Boston recorded eight points and two rebounds for the Fever in 16 foul-plagued minutes.

After a close loss in Dallas just two nights ago, the Sky seemed determined not to let go of the rope once again, and they rewarded an intimate crowd with a wire-to-wire victory. Attendance at Wintrust Arena was limited to season ticket holders only, and they were treated to an impressive Sky performance highlighted by 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) 3-point accuracy and 14 steals from the home team.

Though Kahleah Copper and Marina Mabrey — two perimeter players who figure to be main fixtures of Chicago’s offense — did not suit up for the game, the Sky had little trouble getting efficient shots, with their only offensive blemish coming in the form of 18 turnovers. Key reserve players Rebekah Gardner and Dana Evans, making spot starts in the stead of Chicago’s stars, played particularly well, combining to score 25 points, hit four 3-pointers and record five steals.

For as well as the Sky played offensively, however, it was their defense that controlled the game. Chicago employed a consistently aggressive defensive scheme, hard hedging Fever ball screens to discourage dribble penetration, and it worked to perfection, flustering Indiana’s young core of ball handlers into mistake after mistake and leading to plenty of Sky fast break opportunities. Gardner and Courtney Williams (four steals apiece) set the defensive tone on the perimeter, while Chicago’s frontcourt rotation of Harrison, Alanna Smith, Morgan Bertsch and Kristine Anigwe was able to both neutralize the Fever at the point of attack and make crisp rotations to prevent them from finding the open player such a scheme usually allows.

It was a glimpse of how the Sky, who currently have just three rotation players from last year’s team, will likely want to play in 2023: uptempo and havoc-inducing. While this kind of approach can be hit-or-miss against more experienced teams, tonight’s result offered a look at how dynamic Chicago has the potential to be when firing on all cylinders — even without two of its most prominent players.

Fever guard rotation still in flux

As is usually the case during the preseason, the Fever used their exhibition minutes to evaluate several players competing for spots on the roster. Of particular interest was Indiana’s point guard position, though first-year head coach Christie Sides probably doesn’t have her mind made up quite yet, as none of the candidates played standout basketball.

Kristy Wallace, who the Fever acquired from the Atlanta Dream in an offseason trade, got the start alongside Mitchell, but missed the one shot she took and turned the ball over five times in 17 minutes. Destanni Henderson played marginally better, but still had as many turnovers (four) as points scored in 13 minutes. Rookie Grace Berger played the most of the trio at 22 minutes and recorded four points, four rebounds, two steals and four turnovers.

Williams leaves early, does not return

Chicago center Elizabeth Williams, who projects to start for the Sky after signing a two-year deal this past offseason, left Sunday’s game after taking a hard fall with roughly eight minutes remaining in the first quarter. Williams did not return to the game or the bench; per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Annie Constabile, she is being evaluated for a concussion.