The Chicago Sky won’t have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they could finish third in the Eastern Conference with a fifth consecutive home win in their regular-season finale and some help.
The San Antonio Stars have a more straightforward route to a third-place finish in the West and will try to secure that by matching their longest win streak this year and snapping a season-high five-game road skid Sunday.
Chicago (15-18) couldn’t complete a rally from an 18-point deficit in the first quarter and fell 71-67 in a pivotal game at Indiana on Saturday. The Sky got within two points on four occasions in just their second loss in seven games since Elena Delle Donne’s return from a recurrence of Lyme disease.
"You can’t have a first quarter like that and expect to come back," said guard Allie Quigley, who had a team-best 17 points.
With that loss, Chicago has a difficult scenario to avoid a fourth-place finish in the East and a matchup with Atlanta in the first round. To move up to third, the Sky need a win from Indiana in New York on Sunday and a victory over San Antonio (15-18).
That would put them in a tie with Washington but Chicago would own the tiebreaker based on a better conference record, 14-8 to 11-11. If all three teams finish 16-18, Chicago would finish fourth because it had the worst combined record against the other two clubs at 4-5.
The Stars, meanwhile, can finish third in the West by recording their second three-game win streak this season. San Antonio, which last won three straight June 14-22, would match Los Angeles’ 16-18 record with a victory and take third because it won three of four meetings with the Sparks.
They clinched their seventh playoff berth in eight years and extended Becky Hammon’s career with a 92-76 win over the West’s second-place team, Minnesota, on Friday.
Hammon will become the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs when her 16th season ends.
"We’ll take it as we go," she said. "I feel like we’ve been playing a little bit better as of late. … When you get into the playoffs, there’s a new energy and there’s a new life. Everybody’s on a clean slate."
San Antonio won its only other matchup with Chicago in 2014 but Delle Donne sat out for the 17th time in 18 games in that 92-74 road defeat July 29. That was also the final of her 12 consecutive absences, which ended in an 87-74 victory over New York on July 31.
Kayla McBride’s 16 points led five players in double figures against Chicago and the Stars shot 50.7 percent. Epiphanny Prince had a team-leading 23 points for the Sky and Jamierra Faulkner had 19, but Sylvia Fowles was the team’s only other player in double figures with 14.
Delle Donne had 23 points and made the winning free throws with 1.8 seconds left in her most recent game against San Antonio, a 72-70 home victory June 9, 2013.