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Sky singing ‘Kumbaya’ in an effort to end five-game skid

Poor shooting and a lack of team cohesion did the Chicago Sky in against the Washington Mystics, but James Wade has faith they will get their chemistry back.

Chicago Sky v New York Liberty
Robyn Parks
Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

The saga of the Chicago Sky continues as they lost their fifth consecutive game Thursday night, falling 80-59 to the Washington Mystics. Plagued by a depleted roster due to injuries, they quickly found themselves overwhelmed by a healthy and surging Mystics team that is quickly climbing up the ladder in the league standings.

The biggest takeaways were poor shooting and signs that the team is not on the same page after a better-than-expected opening to the season.

At the start of the game, both sides were very much on par. Neither side was able to generate a run and score an abundance of points. It was as if each side was still finding a groove in the opening minutes.

Chicago was doing a lot of things right and found good looks; they just had some difficulty scoring baskets at first. The same was true for Washington, but the Mystics had the advantage of having a few open looks in the lane and on the perimeter due to the Sky’s defense being temporarily scattered.

At the 5:53 mark of the first, it was the Mystics ahead, 9-7.

It was then Washington that began to take control little by little. Their offense was fueled by Natasha Cloud. They moved the ball with great precision and had great motion to where the Sky’s defense was virtually non-existent. Thus, they were able to score both inside and outside.

Chicago’s offense was still plagued by difficulty finding openings. Plus their defense seemed to lack communication and at times created openings for the Mystics to score easy points. At the end of the first, Washington was in the midst of a 16-2 run and led 25-9. They were shooting 50 percent from the field while the Sky were shooting 18 percent.

The Sky were badly in need of regrouping and it was up to them to utilize head coach James Wade’s prioritization of defense. As Washington was continuing to surge on, the Sky did have at least one bright spot at both ends in Robyn Parks.

Parks was playing top-notch, tenacious defense and got a hand in the face of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough a couple times in addition to fighting for loose balls. On offense, she was able to hit from three at the 7:10 mark of the second to cut it to 27-14.

Another bright spot was the play of Elizabeth Williams.

At 5:48 before halftime, E. Williams blocked a shot on a fast break attempt by Shakira Austin, leading to Courtney Williams taking it up the floor. Instead of going for the pull-up jumper, C. Williams found Morgan Bertsch underneath for a layup plus the foul and the extra point at the line.

With the score now 29-17 Mystics, there seemed to be a newfound urgency on Chicago’s part as their defense started to keep the game reasonable. On offense, their shooting woes continued, particularly for Kahleah Copper, Alanna Smith and Marina Mabrey.

For much of the first half, Copper hadn’t hit a field goal; she had two points to her name, which were free throws she made to open the game. She seemed rather lethargic and wasn’t her usual lead-by-example self. Smith and Mabrey weren’t their usual selves from downtown or inside.

Copper was able to break the spell with an open layup off a break at 1:06 remaining in the first half.

With 44.6 seconds left before halftime, Mabrey was fouled by Cloud at the 3-point line and was still able to make the shot followed by a free throw that cut it to 41-28.

At the conclusion of the first half, the Mystics lead 43-30.

The second half began on a good note with Copper hitting her first three to cut it to 10. But that didn’t enable much progress, as the Mystics still remained in control and were there to answer right back.

Chicago’s defense continued to exude strength and the right amount of smart toughness. But they didn’t have much of an answer for the Mystics’ outstanding shooting performance.

At the end of the third, the Mystics lead 59-44.

The fourth quarter quickly became anticlimactic. Washington never lost their advantage, continuing to shoot well, and ran away with the game.

In all, Chicago’s defense was considerably solid throughout as it was a fairly low-scoring game. If the Sky had shot the ball better than 30 percent, they would have at the very least been in contention if not ahead at times.

Their chemistry seems to be lacking for unknown reasons even though they have a plethora of talent.

Afterward, Wade provided both a reassurance that everything will be alright as well as some examples of possible antidotes for the team’s seemingly deteriorating chemistry.

“There’s a lot that can be done,” he said. “We’ve done things, team bonding stuff. We go light a bonfire on Lake Michigan, wear hula hoop stuff, sing Kumbaya, and drink Harvey’s favorite beer. I think that stuff can help. I wanted to put them in an escape room and the last clue, just keep it, and they just be stuck there until Tuesday. We will see how they like that. “

The Sky (5-8) will take on the Connecticut Sun (11-3) on the road on Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.