The Chicago Sky are still on the hunt for their first playoff appearance, and Shay Murphy has been helping them get as close as they can. At heart, she's a southern California girl enjoying life with her team in Chi-town.
With less than a week left, the Chicago Sky are still in the playoff hunt -- and though Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince, as expected, have played major roles, injuries to both have thrust reserves Carolyn Swords and Shay Murphy into starring roles.
Prince is healthy now, but she missed eight games, while Fowles has missed the last four games after returning from the Olympics banged up. The 6-6 Swords, the 15th overall pick in 2011, has stepped in for Fowles, averaging seven points and six rebounds in September, while Murphy has been steady all season. Her shooting is much better in 2012, her fifth summer in the WNBA, and she's averaging 8.3 points a game in just 18 minutes of playing time.
Both will need to play well this final week, as the Sky are currently one game behind the Liberty, and have lost the tiebreaker -- so Chicago needs to win more of its final three than New York does. What will make it harder is that the Liberty have two games against Tulsa, which is one of the worst teams in the league, while the Sky draw Seattle, Atlanta and Washington.
With everyone healthy, Chicago started the season strong but the injuries to Prince and Fowles hurt the Sky on both ends of the floor. A 1-6 skid in August nearly knocked them out of the postseason hunt, but Murphy and Swords have helped spark a September revival.
In a big win against Los Angeles Sept. 2, Murphy put up 13 points and grabbed four rebounds and that same week, Swords delivered eight points and five rebounds in a critical win at New York. Swords had another strong game with 11 points, nine rebounds and two steals in an emotional 83-70 home win against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and Murphy followed that up by leading the team in scoring with a career-high 22 points in Sunday's win over the Phoenix Mercury.
The 5-11 Murphy has played for five different teams in her five years in the league, but may have carved out a permanent spot in Chicago. The USC grad has gotten better every season, though she does need to be more consistent -- she's had 10 games this season where she's scored fewer than 10 points.
Swords, out of Boston College, is still developing, and though her overall numbers in 2012 aren't that dazzling (3.6 points and 3.0 rebounds a game), but she has taken a big step forward in her second season in the league.
And with Swords and Murphy both contributing, the Sky might finally take their first-ever step into the playoffs -- but they need to win at least two games and hope New York stumbles.
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