International obligations have left the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream without a top player, but each squad's respective star has helped make the absences a bit easier.
Elena Delle Donne leads the top offensive team in the Eastern Conference against Angel McCoughtry and the Dream, best in the WNBA on defense, as the Sky visit Atlanta on Sunday.
Epiphanny Prince was leading Chicago with 20.7 points per game when she left earlier this month to help the Russian national team in its quest to qualify for the world championships.
Delle Donne, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, stepped up in the Sky's second game without Prince. She scored 23 points and hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining as Chicago (4-1) beat San Antonio 72-70 last Sunday.
"I'm definitely trying to be a little more aggressive, get some double-teams, and get other people open (while Prince isn't playing)," Delle Donne said.
The rookie is fourth in the league with 19.4 points a contest while ranking third with 2.6 blocks.
''We've all been talking about it and the word that we've all used is unique skill set for somebody 6-5, and poise,'' coach Pokey Chatman said.
Delle Donne and center Sylvia Fowles, averaging 13.4 points while leading the WNBA in rebounding at 14.8 per game, have helped the Sky average a conference-best 84.2 points per contest.
They'll likely be in for a tough challenge Sunday, though, as the Dream (5-1) are holding opponents to an average of 68.7 points.
Atlanta played its first of six games Friday without leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Sancho Lyttle, who is competing with Spain's national team overseas.
McCoughtry, the top scorer in the WNBA last season who's averaging 18.8 points this year, scored 23 to go with nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals in a 68-59 win over Seattle on Friday.
Le'Coe Willingham started in Lyttle's place and grabbed eight boards.
''We played Dream basketball - forcing turnovers, contesting shots and running our offense up-tempo,'' McCoughtry said. ''Sancho is a great player, but while she's gone, other people have a chance to step up.''
Atlanta has three players ranked in the top four in the league in steals per game. McCoughtry leads the WNBA with 3.7, followed by teammate Armintie Herrington at 3.4. Lyttle is tied for third with Indiana's Tamika Catchings at 2.8.
''This is a good team, but we can get a lot better,'' McCoughtry said. ''There's a lot of stuff to clean up, but we're off to a pretty good start.''
The Dream went 3-2 in five meetings with the Sky last season. McCoughtry and Fowles each played in four, with McCoughtry scoring 25.0 points per game and Fowles averaging 19.0 points and 10.8 rebounds.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Dream
- Epiphanny Prince
- Angel McCoughtry
- Sylvia Fowles