Sky attribute fourth consecutive loss to familiar energy issues

WASHINGTON — The Sky lacked energy from the moment the ball was tipped until the final buzzer sounded in their 77-69 loss Sunday to the Mystics.

If the Mystics opening the game with a 6-0 run didn't make it obvious enough that the Sky (5-7) failed to show up like a team determined not to let their losing streak reach four games, coach/general manager James Wade's early substitutions of three of his starters made it crystal clear.

”We just weren't good,” Wade said. ”I wanted to find players who were good.”

Two minutes into the game, Wade subbed in Dana Evans, Taylor Soule and Morgan Bertsch for Kahleah Copper, Courtney Williams and Elizabeth Williams. The change made an immediate impact.

The Sky cut into the Mystics' lead with back-to-back field goals and finished the first quarter with Copper and both Williamses on the bench.

”Our starting group just wasn't doing it,” forward Alanna Smith said. ”We weren't starting like we wanted to. Luckily for us, we have a bench that can pick us up. James made the right call. If you're not going to do it, someone else will.”

Before the game, Wade emphasized how crucial it would be for the Sky to come out with the right energy. He said they'd lose by 20 points if they didn't.

It almost came to that. The Sky trailed by 17 with three minutes left before finding some kind of life and closing with a 9-0 run.

The Mystics had the best defensive rating in the league and forced 21 turnovers that they converted to 26 points. Marina Mabrey, who scored a career-high 36 points Thursday against the Fever, was held to 11 points, Copper and Smith to eight each, Evans to three and Courtney Williams to two. Bertsch led the Sky with 16 points off the bench.

Wade's rotations were atypical. Elizabeth Williams played only 18 minutes because Bertsch returned after missing eight games with an ankle injury, and Robyn Parks didn't play at all, with Wade going with Soule instead.

After missing two practices and the game last week against the Fever, Copper never found her rhythm. At one point in the third quarter, Wade subbed in Soule for Copper, who appeared to disagree with the decision. She stopped to talk with Wade at the front of the bench before heading to the end.

Wade wasn't clear about the exchange when he was asked about it after the game.

”I don't know; I can't even tell you,” Copper said when she was asked what their tense discourse was about.

Wade has a direct relationship with all of his players, but perhaps none more so than Copper, who has frequently spoken about his ability to fire her up. Maybe it was another attempt by Wade to get more from her, but neither wanted to discuss it afterwards.

Wade and Copper both have experience navigating slumps. The Sky dropped seven consecutive games in 2021 before going on a seven-game winning streak. The difference is, this team lacks the cohesiveness that one had as a result of years of playing together.

This team has yet to play a solid stretch of games with the same roster because of injuries. Despite that, Wade said he had no concerns about a divide forming in the midst of the Sky's skid.

”We don't do that in Chicago,” Wade said. ”We've lost seven straight and won a championship the same year. We don't turn on each other in Chicago.”