Rookies Kamilla Cardoso, Angel Reese must step up in wake of injury to Elizabeth Williams

When the Sky selected center Kamilla Cardoso and forward Angel Reese with the third and seventh overall picks in the WNBA Draft in April, an imposing frontcourt tandem was their vision for the future.

Ten games into the season, that future is here after veteran center Elizabeth Williams suffered a potential season-ending injury to her right knee Thursday.

The Sky’s 89-80 loss Saturday to the Dream offered the first glimpse at Cardoso and Reese in starting roles together. Both will need to fast-track their development to replace Williams’ production.

‘‘I’m just trying to be as smart as I can be,’’ Reese said. ‘‘Obviously, [Williams] has done a great job teaching me some of her little tricks around the basket or even just playing defensively. She was telling me how to guard [Dream center] Tina [Charles].’’

Reese became only the third rookie in league history to finish with at least 13 points, 13 rebounds and five steals in a game. She joins Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings and three-time champion Candace Parker.

The Dream’s starting frontcourt of Charles and former Sky forward Cheyenne Parker-Tyus has a combined 23 years of experience; Reese and Cardoso have only four games of experience playing together. One specific moment showed just how green both are by comparison.

Late in the second quarter, Charles was trying to attack the rim when Cardoso and Reese double-teamed her. Instead of passing the ball out, she spun to her left and sank a fadeaway over both of them.

She finished with a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Parker-Tyus added 18 points.

While walking off the floor, Charles pulled Reese to the side and shared a message with her.

‘‘She told me, ‘You’re doing a great job out there,’’’ Reese said. ‘‘She told me she respects me, and even after the game she was telling me to take my time finishing around the basket.’’

Offensive efficiency is the area of Reese’s game that needs the most attention. She’s shooting 33% from the field. On Saturday, however, she was 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-4 from the free-throw line for her best shooting game of the season.

Cardoso, meanwhile, still is working her way back from a shoulder injury that cost her the first six games of the season. She finished with 13 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. It was the most minutes she had logged in four games, but coach Teresa Weatherpsoon said she’s still operating on a minutes restriction.

‘‘She runs the floor really well,’’ Reese said of Cardoso. ‘‘At 6-7, to see a post player run the floor that well, I’ve known that since high school, obviously. Her hands are really [great]. She catches passes, makes baskets around the rim really fluidly. Her continuing to play and be consistent is going to allow her to continue to be great.

‘‘Our duo is something that’s going to be here for a while. I’m here to stay, and I’m excited for our growth.’’

A slow offensive start again was an issue for the Sky. On Thursday against the Mystics, they were able to execute a comeback with a fourth-quarter run. But 21 turnovers that the Dream turned into 26 points were too much to overcome Saturday.

The Sky continue to struggle with their offensive production. Their offensive rating is seventh among 12 teams in the league, and their three-point percentage is 10th. Against the Dream, they were 3-for-11 from three-point range.

‘‘It’s an issue with execution,’’ Weatherspoon said of the Sky’s offensive lapses. ‘‘We have to execute plays. There’s a lot that goes into what execution means. We have to get better with that.

‘‘At this point you don’t have much practice time, so we’ll get better with film. And as much time as we can get on the floor, we will. But execution is a must for us.’’

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