It's not the way the Chicago Sky wanted to go into the WNBA playoffs, but they proved last year they don't need the top seed to win a championship.
Chicago takes its No. 2 seed into Wednesday night's first-round opener in Chicago against the New York Liberty. The Sky were the sixth overall seed in 2021 when they won two win-or-die games to reach the semifinals, then topped Connecticut and ousted Phoenix 3-1 in the championship series.
For most of the second half of 2022, it looked like Chicago would have homecourt advantage for all its series. Going into the season's final week, it needed two wins in three games to get the top seed.
Instead, the Sky lost 111-100 at home to Seattle and then fell 89-78 in Las Vegas to lose control of the top seed. When the Aces outscored Seattle 109-100 Sunday, it rendered Chicago's 82-67 win in Phoenix meaningless in terms of the top seed.
But with proven winners like Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Allie Quigley and leading scorer Kahleah Copper, it would be dangerous to underestimate the Sky.
Vandersloot, in particular, has come up big in clutch instances. She canned three game-winners this season and has enjoyed one of her best offensive seasons at 11.8 points per game.
"When she feels the energy in those moments, it's great to see," said Chicago coach James Wade.
Meanwhile, New York took its quest for a playoff spot down to the last day, edging Atlanta 87-83 Sunday in New York. The Liberty won six of their last eight, including a weekend sweep of the Dream, to earn the seventh seed.
WNBA first team All-Star Sabrina Ionescu said the late surge came as the result of upping internal standards.
"We've all accepted holding each other to that standard because it's for the betterment of the team," Ionescu said. "We've all gotten to that same page of holding each other to that high standard."
Game 2 of this best-of-3 series is Saturday in Chicago.
--Field Level Media