Linnae Harper comes up big in backup PG role for Sky
By Chris Kwiecinski
With just under eight minutes to play against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, the Sky held a 10-point lead, 66-56. Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen, who has a resume as long as the Mag Mile, brought the ball up the court with an opportunity to get back into the game.
Sky rookie point guard Linnae Harper, signed to a seven-day contract days ago, got the best of her.
Snatching the ball out of Whalen’s hands, Harper ran the rest of the way for an easy layup for her sixth and seventh points of the game, which was arguably the dagger in the Sky’s 77-63 win over the Lynx on Saturday.
It also cemented her position as the Sky’s backup point guard for the rest of the season. This comes in the wake of Jamierra Faulkner’s season-ending knee injury.
“Nothing Linnae did today was a surprise to anyone,” Sky head coach Amber Stocks said. “Today, Chicago got to see what our players get to see everyday in practice.”
Faulker’s injury tasked the Sky with replacing 7.6 points per game and 3.4 assists per game. Harper, almost matched that on Saturday, finishing with seven points, one assist, one steal and two rebounds.
Harper will now take on a role backing up starting point guard Courtney Vandersloot, and will join an offense that will depend on her offensively.
“We have offensive sets that have multiple options,” Stocks said after an overtime loss to the New York Liberty on July 1. In that game, Faulkner attempted a game-winning shot, a role that Harper will now assume.
“We have a lot of extremely versatile and talented players, so we don’t have to draw plays with single looks. We try to run plays that have multiple looks within them,” Stocks said.
Vandersloot gushed about Harper after the game.
“She was huge for us,” Vandersloot said. “She’s such an incredible player where she can just come in and impact the game, whether she’s in two possessions or 10 possessions. That’s exactly what we need.”
Lynx refuse to blame fatigue for loss
It was obvious from the get-go that the Lynx were lacking against the Sky. That could be categorized as fatigue, as the Lynx played four games since the start of July.
But Whalen and forward Maya Moore didn’t pin the loss on fatigue. Instead, Whalen gave credit to the Sky, commending the way they executed on their home court.
“Give credit to Chicago, they played a really good game,” Whalen said. “They were able to get the win tonight.
“We weren’t able to play the way we wanted tonight.”
Moore didn’t even consider fatigue to be an issue.
“We have to be able to be mentally and physically tough, no matter what part of the season we’re in,” Moore said.
Despite what the two veterans said, the Lynx had issues closing out on Sky shooters for the majority of the night. That led to the Sky shooting 52 percent from 3-point range, and 47 percent from the floor.
Chicago also tallied 20 fast-break points and 17 points off turnovers.
Whether or not those tallies were due to a fatigued team, the Lynx will have a few days off before taking on the Indiana Fever on Wednesday.