Chicago (11-16) at Connecticut (20-8)

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer Saturday, Sep 8, 2012 Kickoff: 5:00 pm EDT Sun Sep 9, 2012

The Chicago Sky looked like one of the WNBA’s more formidable teams at the beginning of the year thanks in large part to Epiphanny Prince’s superb play.

After posting lackluster numbers in her first handful of games back from injury, Prince appears to have recaptured her early season form.

In what sets up as a possible first-round playoff preview, the Sky try to salvage a four-game season series split with the Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut Sun, who try to avoid losing three in a row at home for the first time in five years Sunday.

Prince averaged 24.3 points in helping Chicago (11-16) open 7-1 before breaking a bone in her right foot during an 84-70 loss at Indiana on June 16. The Sky dropped seven of eight during Prince’s absence and - despite her return - seven of their first eight following the Olympic break.

Chicago, though, has since posted a pair of impressive victories. The Sky beat Los Angeles 85-74 last Sunday, then pulled out a much-needed 92-83 win at New York on Friday to move back into fourth place in the East - one-half game ahead of the Liberty for the final postseason berth.

Since averaging 11.4 points in her first seven games back, Prince has averaged 23.0 in her last three. She scored 30 while making 5 of 10 from 3-point range versus New York.

“We have to do it as a team, not just me,” Prince said. “We put ourselves in this situation and we got to be able to just play one game at a time. This was a big win for us because now we can be on top of New York if we end up in a tie with them.”

Connecticut (20-8), meanwhile, saw its lead over second-place Indiana shrink to 1 1/2 games after falling 91-82 to lowly Phoenix on Friday. The Sun were outrebounded 45-21 and dropped to 9-5 on their own court - a good, but not great, record compared to some of the WNBA’s other playoff-bound teams.

Connecticut lost 82-70 to the Sky in its previous home game Aug. 26 before salvaging a home-and-home split two nights later in Chicago. It hasn’t endured three consecutive home defeats since losing a franchise-worst five in a row in June 2007.

“We have an opportunity with two games at home here (this weekend) to build some momentum before we go out on the road,” guard Kara Lawson said. “What’s the point of securing home-court (in the playoffs) if you can’t win at home?

“The brand of basketball we’re playing right now, we can’t win in the playoffs because we don’t have the focus and the execution that’s necessary right now. It’s in us. The wheels aren’t falling off, but this was disappointing.”

The Sun could catch a break with Sky center Sylvia Fowles uncertain to be available after sitting out the second half Friday with a lower leg injury. She missed both matchups in this series last month due to personal reasons but scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting during an 80-78 overtime loss July 13.

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