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Top-seeded Aces ready for ‘war’ with No. 8 Chicago Sky

Guard Jackie Young knows the Aces need to take care of business in their first-round series with the Chicago Sky.

The top-seeded Aces swept the No. 8 Sky in the regular season, with the closest game being a 94-87 Aces win at Wintrust Arena in Chicago Aug. 24.

The Sky crept into the playoffs with an 18-22 record, just one loss away from missing the postseason entirely. Yet Young and the Aces know not to underestimate their opponent.

“We know they’re a great team. They have a lot of good players,” Young said. “Every time we’ve played them, it’s been a good game.”

The Aces face the Sky at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Game 1 of the first round of the WNBA playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Aces coach Becky Hammon called Chicago’s guard trio of former Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, Marina Mabrey and Courtney Williams a “three-headed monster,” despite the Aces’ edge on paper.

“Their guard play is what concerns me most,” Hammon said.

Chicago had to scrap just to get into the playoffs. While the Aces clinched their postseason bid Aug. 1, the Sky didn’t book their spot until Sept. 8.

The Sky had a difficult offseason. Two-time MVP Candace Parker and perennial All-Star Courtney Vandersloot left as free agents to join the Aces and New York Liberty, respectively. Contributing guard Allie Quigley, forward Emma Meesseman and guard Julie Allemand all sat out the 2023 season for various reasons.

Coach and general manager James Wade made several additions, adding Williams from the Sun and signing Mabrey and center Isabelle Harrison from the Dallas Wings.

Harrison was ruled out with a meniscus injury days before the season started, and second-year guard Rebekah Gardner only played three games before a knee injury ended her season as well.

Wade was the team’s final departure, announcing July 1 he was leaving to join Darko Rajakovic’s staff with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors as an assistant. Emre Vatansever was named the interim coach and general manager in Wade’s place.

Chicago dropped six of their next eight games after Wade’s exit. It briefly righted the ship before suffering a five-game losing streak, but regrouped again and won five of their final six games, including a crucial 76-75 win on the road against the Los Angeles Sparks on Aug. 29.

Copper (18.7), Mabrey (15) and Williams (10.4) have led the Sky in scoring. Chicago also has one of the league’s best reserves in guard Dana Evans. Aces guard Kelsey Plum called Evans one of the fastest players in the league.

“We understand how good this team is,” Plum said. “Their record … I don’t think it shows how good they are. We’re going to be in a war.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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