WNBA

Fever-Sky Preview

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Headed to the postseason for the first time in franchise history, the Chicago Sky's initial playoff opponent could be the reigning WNBA champion Indiana Fever.

Though the Sky are riding a season-high six-game winning streak, they'll look to avoid a fifth straight home defeat to the Fever on Friday night.

After failing to win more than 16 games in any of its previous seven seasons, Chicago (21-8) has already clinched home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and remains in the mix with Minnesota for the league's best record.

"I think we have taken huge strides as a team but what's cooler about this is there's a lot more we can do and improve on,'' said star rookie Elena Delle Donne, who averages a team-leading 18.3 points. "That's what you like to see at a time like this.''

Sylvia Fowles scored 18 and Delle Donne added 15 as the Sky used a 30-11 third-quarter scoring advantage to win 85-68 at home over Atlanta on Saturday in their most recent contest.

Chicago has averaged 87.5 points while winning four straight home games by an average margin of 13.5 since losing 64-58 there to Indiana (13-16) on Aug. 6.

The Sky won 71-61 on the road against an Indiana team minus star Tamika Catchings (18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds per game) on June 22. However, with Catchings totaling 35 points and 18 boards, Indiana held Chicago to a season-low 58 points apiece to win the last two meetings.

"We're always trying to concentrate on the next game and win that game,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "We don't have the luxury of having things figured out, despite the good record and positive play.

"There's still a lot of growth and experience and minutes that we need to gather so we continue to be a better team.''

Delle Donne, who missed Chicago's 79-58 loss at Indiana on Aug. 3 with a concussion, has scored 25 points in two games against the Fever.

Indiana currently sits fourth in the East and would face the Sky to open the playoffs if the standings hold. The Fever are one game behind third-place Washington, but have dropped five of seven after Wednesday's 89-80 overtime loss at Atlanta.

Catchings had 22 points and became the eighth WNBA player with at least 2,000 career field goals. Erlana Larkins added 10 points with a career-high 17 rebounds, but Indiana stumbled in overtime after coming from nine down late in the third quarter.

"I thought we needed to win the ball game in regulation, but going into overtime - as far as the fatigue - this would really hurt us,'' coach Lin Dunn said.

"We did everything we could do to win, so I'm very proud of our players."

The Fever hope to have point guard Briann January (9.0 points, 3.6 assists per game) back after she missed Wednesday's contest with an illness.



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