The Chicago Sky continued a road-heavy stretch of schedule with a key win over a struggling opponent in their last game, keeping pace in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Sky may need to duplicate that feat when they visit the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night, or they could find themselves eliminated from contention by the end of the evening.
Chicago (13-18) routed Phoenix 86-55 on Sunday to remain one game behind New York for fourth place with three to play. The Liberty, though, have secured the conference tiebreaker, which means the Sky will have to finish with a better overall record than New York.
The result is that a Chicago loss and a New York win Tuesday would end the Sky’s hopes.
The Sky are 6-7 during a 14-game stretch in which nine games are on the road, and Chicago has gone 3-6 in those contests.
The tough stretch has made it difficult to keep up with the Liberty, who have won three in a row and five of six while playing five of those games at home. New York, though, begins a two-game trip Tuesday, while Chicago will be playing its road finale.
The Sky, 7-9 away from home, had little trouble with the Mercury, leading 55-26 at halftime en route to posting the largest margin of victory in franchise history. Shay Murphy scored 20 of her career-high 22 points in the first half as Chicago won for the fourth time in six games.
The Sky will try to keep the pressure on the Liberty as they face a Seattle club that’s stumbling toward the playoffs. The Storm (13-18) will be the fourth seed in the West but haven’t shown any indication lately that they’ll be a threat to first-round opponent Minnesota, falling 60-58 to Connecticut on Sunday in a franchise record-tying fourth consecutive defeat - a slide matched earlier this season.
Seattle’s previous three losses came by an average of 21.3 points, and the team can likely draw some other positives from the latest defeat. The Storm played without injured stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson - both day-to-day - and still nearly defeated the first-place team in the East.
“I thought it was a great effort and we definitely put ourselves in position to win the game,” said coach Brian Agler, whose team lost on Renee Montgomery’s two free throws with 14.4 seconds left. “I feel bad for our team that we didn’t come through.”