It's quickly gone from bad to worse since the Olympic break for the Chicago Sky, and the worst may be yet to come.
Chicago (8-12) bolted to a 7-1 start behind Prince, who averaged 24.3 points in that span and had three consecutive 30-point efforts - including a season-high 33 in a 94-92 win at Atlanta on June 2. She suffered a foot injury June 16 at Indiana and the Sky have come crashing down since, dropping seven straight and 11 of 12 after Tuesday night's 77-67 home defeat to New York.
"We have to put together longer stretches of defense,'' said Sky coach Pokey Chatman, who has seen her team lose those seven games by a combined total of only 38 points.
While the latest loss cut the Sky's lead to one-half game over the Liberty for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East, of bigger concern may be the right ankle injury Prince suffered midway through the fourth quarter. She was carried off the court but did return to the sidelines before the end of the game and finished with 10 points.
Prince is questionable for this contests.
Without Prince and her 20.4 points per game, Chicago may be hard-pressed to generate enough offense to match Atlanta (10-11), led by Olympic gold medalist and WNBA leading scorer Angel McCoughtry. She averages 22.7 points and scored 18 of her 22 in the second half of Saturday's 86-72 loss at Indiana as the Dream wrapped up an eight-game road stretch around the Olympic break at 4-4.
Atlanta's defense was a big reason for the loss, allowing Katie Douglas to make seven of Indiana's 12 3-pointers.
"The Fever have a tough offense and (Douglas) shot really well against us,'' Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. "We just weren't very strong mentally (Saturday).''
Returning to Philips Arena for the first time since June 26 could provide a boost, especially with center Erika DeSouza making her home debut. She has played only two games after training with the Brazilian national team for the Olympics, but had 19 points and six rebounds in an 82-76 win at Chicago last Friday as Atlanta outscored the Sky 52-30 in the paint.
McCoughtry, who has been held under 20 points just twice in 15 games this year, had 25 in last week's victory. She has averaged 26.3 points in three games against Chicago this year, making all 27 of her free throws.
The Dream, who lead the Sky by 1 1/2 games for third in the East, are beginning a soft patch in their schedule with four of their next five opponents owning sub-.500 records.
- Epiphanny Prince
- Atlanta Dream