The Chicago Sky squared off with the Minnesota Lynx last Saturday for the WNBA’s first-ever game in Canada.
The preseason game sold out Scotiabank Arena, recorded an official attendance of 19,923, and sold out 98 percent of the in-arena merchandise.
The Sky came away with an 82-74 win with Kahleah Copper leading the way with 18 points, nine rebounds and two assists.
But also standing out in the game was Morgan Bertsch.
The versatile forward, who was signed to a training camp deal on April 17, proved why her stint with the Sky should extend past the opening day roster cut-down deadline, set for Thursday.
Bertsch registered 12 points (4-7 from the floor, 4-4 from the stripe), along with five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
It was a thorough display of excellent touch, feel, adaptability, and general IQ in an expanded role with the Sky heading into Canada sans their presumed starting frontcourt of Isabelle Harrison and Elizabeth Williams.
Their absences presented an opportunity, and Bertsch’s preparation was on full display.
Let’s get into the film breakdown.
We’ll start with defense, as Bertsch displayed great instincts and feel both on the ball, like here:
As well as in help, again containing the ball in isolation here:
Generally being able to apply pressure and do so without fouling, is invaluable for a team that leans heavily on its frontcourt to be switchable and versatile.
Here, we saw some of Bertsch’s defensive help engagement, prowess, and awareness.
Notice how she closes the air space, with physicality and active hands, to terminate the reaction advantage Minnesota garnered on their staggered screens.
She’s there in a position to help Williams who’s detached in her navigation, then is able to late-switch with her to keep the defensive she’ll intact.
Notice her reaction time in this clip:
Bertsch pinches in from the strong corner as they seemingly accidentally kept two to the ball, and was able to get to the shooting hand before an attempt could get up.
Here, again, notice the timing of her instinctive rotation again as the lowman:
Her verticality and timing take away the easier pass to the corner, plus the attempt at the rim, forcing a wrap-around pass that allows her teammate a chance to close out.
In addition to that, notice the switch flip for her as Bertsch changes ends of the floor. Her first three steps put her in an eventual position to undo the transition defense as she chose the right lane to run, and ultimately burned them.
Here, we’re going to see a strong side handoff in the empty corner, paired with some dummy off-ball/weakside staggered/exchange action – simply to occupy the help defenders and enable space for the “two-man” game to unfold.
Bertsch, on high alert, even away from the “porch” near the restricted area, is still aware and able to react on time for yet another timely contest in rim protection, while again covering ground quickly to position herself to be effective.
No block, but the contest is equally as effective, as Williams was burned on the backdoor cut.
Yet another impressive display of dexterity and athleticism, to cancel a reaction advantage created by the offense:
Bertsch sees a slip from her match-up as she jumps to the level of the screen, then she has to quickly revert to keep the ball out of the paint on the pass.
In that, she’s also then tasked with showing help – as her match-up rolls – due to lost containment at the point of attack.
Notice her verticality – again – without fouling, to garner yet another stop and cover up for slippage on-ball.
Lastly, we see her with another disciplined contest at the basket:
She’s able to defend in space following the hit-ahead pass, then again alters the vision of the basket and backboard as she sticks to the hip for the contest.
Nailing these little things in switching, rotating, awareness, discipline, and physicality – on repeat – will be a driving force in her being kept on the roster, and also earning meaningful minutes for staying power in Wade’s rotation.
Additionally, the versatility she brings to the offensive end was equally as impressive – though not surprising given she’s scored everywhere she’s played.
First is the Sky’s 5-out spacing, in “delay” action (when a frontcourt player has the ball at/near the top of the key, with all other players spaced on the perimeter).
Being trusted and skilled enough to handle viably in this offensive context is one thing, as it enables the Sky – with pace – to play off Chicago/Miami/Zoom (dribble hand-offs variants) that’ll enable the likes of Copper/Mabrey/Williams/Evans downhill off the catch.
It’s also important because Bertsch has the uncanny ability as a frontcourt piece to put the ball on the deck and put pressure on the paint.
The threat of that, combined with the extended pressure of the Lynx defense, enables her to drive the top foot of her defender and attract the attention of the nail help.
However, guess who’s one pass away – where the nail help came from? It’s Dana Evans who’s spaced to the “four-point line” which makes the rotation back of the nail help *that* much more exaggerated, and she deposits three.
Here we’ll see her disciplined with the screen, and induce a switch:
The switch enables her to drive directly to the basket. As the shot goes up, she’s out of position, but she competes in pursuing the rock via the swim move, gets to it first, and forces a foul while gaining an extra possession.
This is *really* good stuff.
Here, we’ll see her IQ and skill in real-time via the sideline out of bounds.
Solid denial from the Lynx in fronting the post, in addition to the crafty “switch-out,” where you see the inbounders defender switch up the line, to account for the cutters match-up, throws off the Sky’s timing.
Bertsch, seeing the pressure, cuts off feel to the dome, then knows that Smith has her match-up sales top-side, so a post entry over the top is there.
Having not touched the ball for even a half-second, she’s delivered it to the advantage and is able to beat the low help as Williams kept that side occupied.
Great real-time problem-solving and solution-based activity, again, from Bertsch.
Ends in a miss, but you see the overall dynamic in play with her.
Next, again she’s trusted in some Delay-adjacent action, that flows into an empty side dribble pick-and-roll, with Copper.
After the screen through physicality, she pops to the mid-range and knocks down a quick release catch–and-shoot – with no effort.
We’ll see another here, as she gets out ahead of the ball in transition, to set a drag screen for Williams:
She then, again, this time with defense yet to set itself, pops to the mid-range and – as Williams heads two to the ball – stretches the help defense before depositing two more from the mid-range.
She has a clear touch and comfortability from this range, even off the catch.
Lastly, we’ll see her get into it one final time in this “pocket” scenario on the short pop:
She follows her pass into a screen, then astutely feels out the pressure from the coverage, as they’re in another emptied corner scenario – enabling space.
As she feels her match-up step up to the level of the screen, and no longer behind her, she smartly slips the pressure on-ball, into that short pop pocket, spaced away from the low help defense again, and effortlessly deposits two more in rhythm.
Morgan Bertsch’s name will be one to get familiar with as the Sky transition into the regular season, and with her array of two-way skill and adept feel even more, she could very well carve out a role in the rotation this season that will be pivotal as games grow meaningful late in the season.
The increased levels of activity that come as she steps on the floor are impossible to ignore, and that positive freneticism is a level of chaos-inducing activity that can be parlayed into a true weapon for this team – regardless of her role.