Sky hit the break on a winning note

Kahleah Copper is the same player she was last season with a few more MVP awards to her name.

Last July, she was in the midst of what many were calling a breakout season. After earning her first All-Star nod in 2021, she went on to be named WNBA Finals MVP before heading overseas and claiming EuroLeague MVP and Spanish league MVP honors.

This year, after helping lead the Sky to first place in the league standings at the halfway point and being named an All-Star for a second consecutive year, Copper has further solidified her place as one of the league’s best.

The only difference this year is no one’s surprised.

“I’m grateful,” Copper said. “It’s hard to be an All-Star, but it’s even harder to do it back-to-back.”

Copper had a quiet game Thursday with only six points, four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes in the Sky’s 93-84 road victory against the Indiana Fever. It was their second game of a back-to-back and their last before the All-Star break.

The Sky’s starters did not return to the game after leaving midway through the third quarter.

Emma Meesseman led the way with 20 points. Candace Parker added 12 points and nine rebounds, and 10 of the Sky’s 11 players scored.

“We know it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” coach/general manager James Wade said. “But we wanted to make sure we’re taking care of business in the meantime.”

The victory clinched home-court advantage for the Sky in the July 26 Commissioner’s Cup championship game against the Las Vegas Aces. A time has not been set for the game, which features a $500,000 prize pool with $30,000 going to each player on the winning team. The Sky will be coming off back-to-back games against the Dallas Wings and New York Liberty ahead of that in-season competition, and Wade said the last thing he wanted his team to do was to travel.

The Sky opened the season 2-2 without Copper, who was finishing her overseas commitment with Perfumerias Avenida of the Spanish league.

In the 18 games since her return, the Sky are 14-4 with Copper leading the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The Sky’s offensive rating with Copper on the court is 107 compared to 100 when she’s on the bench. Halfway through the season, she’s shooting 38.2% from three-point range, her best mark since being traded to the Sky in 2018.

One of four Sky All-Stars, Copper joins four-time All-Star Courtney Vandersloot and Meesseman as reserves and Parker, a seven-time All-Star who was voted in as a starter. Allie Quigley was selected to compete in her fifth three-point contest, and Wade is a first-time coach in the game.

The biggest difference between the Sky at the beginning of the season and heading into the All-Star break is their chemistry, and Copper is a significant reason for the change. Wade describes her as the heart and soul of his team.

After the Sky host the first WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday, the real fun starts, Wade said in reference to the team’s pursuit of back-to-back titles.

As good as the Sky are playing halfway through the season, they feel there’s another level they can reach.

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