Elizabeth Williams was a home run for Sky's defensive identity

MINNEAPOLIS — Sky coach/GM James Wade stood in the middle of the court with his hands on his knees, encouraging his new team not to give up.

The Lynx shot clock is ticking, and as it gets closer to expiration, Wade's energy increases. On the field, Langit equals the ferocity of their coach. When the Lynx lands a missed shot attempt, the sound of the shot clock expiring seems to be music to the ears of a team committed to establishing its identity in defense.

“We were very disruptive and disciplined,” Wade said. “We had a lot of deflections and were able to make them uncomfortable. That's what we do. We are there for each other and support each other. We didn't leave anyone on the island.”

The Sky's 14 steals and eight blocks fail to paint a full picture of their suffocating style of play. Forward Elizabeth Williams set the tone for her team early on.

His two blocks were impressive and seemed to come at a defining moment in Sky's first win and his 14 points were crucial. But the real story of Williams' game and what it means for Sky this season comes at certain moments that can't be counted. His defensive reading allows him to manipulate Lynx posts in 1-vs-1 scenarios or recover on the relief side.

The deflection is not kept in the WNBA but not in the Sky organization. After each match, Wade awards the WWE title belt to the player with the most deflections. Friday night, it's Williams's.

“Her defensive presence is amazing,” Wade said. “You have him out there smothering the guards and our guards defending from the post, over the passing lanes. We have players who will give their best and make sure they have (Williams) back because they know he has their back.

Friday's game is Williams' first defender with her team since entering concussion protocol after Sky's preseason game against the Indiana Fever. It was his first concussion so the medical staff believed all he needed was some time off. There are five stages of the league's concussion protocol and as long as players continue to progress, they are usually reintroduced to basketball activities after a week.

Williams said he was back in full force. His play Friday night showed the same thing.

The league's 2016 Most Outstanding Player and member of the 2020 All-Defensive Team is arguably Wade's most significant free agent signing. Of course, trading guard Marina Mabrey caused a stir, but Williams is an established veteran with a proven track record of excellence in her game and leadership style.

Hours into Game 1, Williams said he felt no pressure, just excited for next season. That seemed to be an emotion the entire team felt. After the first few minutes of play, Sky devolves into a loose style that fits well with Wade's free-flowing system. They finished with 23 assists from 31 field goals made.

It seems that Sky still has a lot of work to do in learning the game from each other. Certain passes in transition and lobs for the post went off scale, but Sky are pleased with where they have been in one game so far this season.

“We landed a lot of transition passes that we didn't in pre-season,” said Copper. “When we talk about that 1% better every day, that's the 1%. We can only get better.”