Sky set to get reacquainted with Elena Delle Donne in matchup vs. Mystics

For the first time since 2019, the Sky will play against a healthy Elena Delle Donne.

Playing in four of the Mystics’ six games, she has her team a half-game behind the league-leading Aces at 5-1. Delle Donne leads the Mystics in scoring (18.5) and rebounding (6.5). After trading her to Washington in 2017, the Sky went winless against the Mystics for two seasons before beating them in 2019.

On Sunday, coach/general manager James Wade expects his team to play with a sense of urgency that he didn’t see in its three-point loss Wednesday to the Storm. It helps that 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper will be available.

“I thought the practice Friday was a lot better than what we showed during the game against the Storm,” Wade said. “We’ll see if we can build on that.”

Even without Copper, the Sky (2-2) have the second-best defensive rating in the league. Emma Meesseman, who will be playing against her former team for the first time since signing with the Sky this offseason, has contributed significantly.

The 2019 WNBA Finals MVP with the Mystics, Meesseman leads the Sky in steals at 2.5 per game and set a career high with seven against the Lynx last week.

“In practice, we’ve really been focusing on defense,” Meesseman said. “James wants us to be aggressive, and I like how we’re doing it. We’re going to continue building on that.”

The Sky still look like a team establishing its synergy, which makes sense given that the roster is incomplete. Julie Allemand is expected to be in Chicago on June 10, and Li Yueru is expected this week, Wade said.

Wade’s team is eighth in fast-break points after finishing second in the category last season. Copper was second in the league in fast-break points per game in 2021, so she should help the Sky’s output.

Meanwhile, the Mystics just got Elizabeth Williams back from her overseas season. They have played two games without guard Natasha Cloud (COVID protocols) and have had limited availability from Alysha Clark (foot), who will not play against the Sky.

The Mystics have the second-best offensive rating in the league. Having Copper back in the rotation will be critical for the Sky to establish a defensive identity. Copper joked that she didn’t win a defensive award during her 2021-22 overseas season to go with her two MVP awards in EuroLeague and Spanish league play.

This season, she wants to earn a spot on the WNBA All-Defensive team.

In Copper’s first practice back with the Sky, Wade had his players work on a defensive drill that earned them a point every time they got a steal, rebound or turnover. On three consecutive possessions, Copper completed the defensive hat trick.

“I always had to guard the best player overseas,” Copper said.

“My coach challenged me. He was a defensive-minded coach. My defense was good, but I think it could have been a lot better [overseas].”

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