The Chicago Sky can move one step closer to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by spoiling Jewell Loyd’s return to her hometown.
The Sky can win for the fifth time in six games and eliminate Loyd’s Seattle Storm from playoff contention Sunday night.
Chicago (19-12) picked up a key victory Thursday, 82-60 over Eastern Conference leader New York. Courtney Vandersloot matched a season high with 21 points and made all five 3-point attempts.
The Sky appear to face too large of a deficit at 2 1/2 games with not enough time to catch the Liberty, who can secure the East’s No. 1 seed with a win in Minnesota on Sunday or a Chicago loss.
The Sky’s main focus is likely on maintaining its one-game lead over third-place Indiana and 2 1/2-game edge over fourth-place Washington.
The Storm (9-21) are in line to miss back-to-back postseasons for the first time since their first two years of 2000 and ’01. A loss or a Los Angeles win over Tulsa on Sunday will make it official.
Loyd will be trying to bolster her case for rookie of the year. The Chicago native and No. 1 overall draft pick leads first-year players with 10.4 points per game and has scored 34 over the past two contests.
Loyd had a team-best 16 points and career-high six assists for her short-handed team in an 85-67 loss to Tulsa on Thursday. The Storm chose to rest veteran point guard Sue Bird while Monica Wright and Abby Bishop were out with injuries.
Ramu Tokashiki hasn’t played since Aug. 21 because she has been helping lead Japan to a berth in the Olympics. Tokashiki, the MVP of the Asian championships that concluded Saturday, is slated to return for Seattle on Tuesday at the earliest.
"We’ve got several people playing out of position right now and, as small as that may seem, it can throw you out of sync," coach Jenny Boucek told the team’s official website. "Our systems are based on synchronicity. We got a lot of weird combinations in right now."
Chicago’s second-leading scorer Cappie Pondexter (15.0 points per game) has missed the past two contests with a concussion, and her status is uncertain.
Pondexter and Chicago’s other starters scored in double figures in a 94-84 win in Seattle on Aug. 14. Vandersloot and Elena Delle Donne led the way with 21 points apiece.