The Chicago Sky are in danger of recording their worst losing streak in six years but appear to have a very good chance to avoid that fate.
In addition to the return of top scorer Epiphanny Prince, the Sky are visiting the Eastern Conference's worst team - one they've beaten eight straight times - and the Washington Mystics have suffered two ugly losses since the Olympic break.
Chicago (8-10) returned from that hiatus Friday and lost 82-76 to Atlanta for its fifth straight defeat. The only time the franchise had a longer losing streak was during its inaugural 2006 season.
The Sky opened this season 7-1 before Prince injured her foot at Indiana on June 16. A loss that day triggered a funk which saw the team drop eight of nine before the London Games. The month off gave Prince enough time to heal so she could return Friday, but Chicago couldn't hold a late lead and was outscored 11-4 over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
"My foot feels okay. It doesn't hurt anymore so that's a good thing," said Prince, averaging 21.7 points to rank second in the league. "I feel like I blended in too much. In the fourth quarter, seven or so minutes went by and I didn't demand the ball until three minutes left."
Prince had 16 points and made four 3-pointers. She averaged 26.8 points during a six-game winning streak before the game in which she got hurt.
"She means a lot to this team," star center Sylvia Fowles said. "Just to have her back is a blessing and hopefully she gets back to the full recovery and what she had. For the most part though, she looked good and I'm happy to have her back."
Fowles, who along with teammate Swin Cash helped the United States win the gold medal in London, was held to 13 points and six rebounds Friday. She averages a league-high 12.0 boards along with 18.2 points.
Fowles has keyed Chicago's eight-game win streak over Washington, posting double-doubles in the last five while averaging 23.0 points and 13.4 rebounds. In the most recent meeting June 1, she hit the winning layup in a 65-63 home victory after Prince scored 13 of her 31 points in the final 1:44 to help Chicago rally from an eight-point deficit.
Washington's two games since the break haven't been nearly as close, losing 84-66 at Indiana on Thursday and 98-69 at Minnesota the following night.
"It's tough to start the second half of the season on a back-to-back," coach Trudi Lacey said.
Crystal Langhorne averages a team-leading 15.7 points but totaled 16 in those two games.
The Mystics (4-16), who have lost six of seven, average a league-low 69.7 points.