The Chicago Sky's hopes for their first postseason berth took a hit during the opener to a three-game western road trip. Continuing it in a place they've never won wouldn't appear to be the best way to get back on track.
Their opponent, though, could be missing some key players as the Sky try to avoid a damaging loss to the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday night.Chicago (12-18) has never made the playoffs since joining the WNBA in 2006 and currently trails New York by one game for the final spot in the Eastern Conference. Those teams split their season series and that leaves the tiebreaker as better conference record, an edge the Liberty can clinch with a win over league-worst Washington on Sunday.That would mean the Sky would have to pass New York in the standings during their final four games.Chicago didn't help its chances of ending its postseason drought with an 86-77 loss in Los Angeles on Thursday."This one hurts," said forward Swin Cash, who scored a season-high 23 points.The Sky's chances of bouncing back don't appear promising as they're 0-6 all-time in Phoenix and 1-12 overall against the Mercury (7-23). An 84-81 home defeat June 29 was Chicago's third in a row in the series.DeWanna Bonner led Phoenix with 27 points in that game and ranks second in the league at 20.9 per game, but she sat out Friday's 92-84 loss to Tulsa because of a sore back. With the Mercury eliminated from playoff contention, coach Corey Gaines is also giving star guard Diana Taurasi some time to rest from a hectic schedule that included last month's Olympics.Taurasi has missed the past two games, but Gaines said she might be needed if Alexis Hornbuckle draws a suspension for a flagrant foul in a loss to Connecticut on Wednesday. The Mercury had only seven players available two nights later and lost their third straight."We went out and played with what we had and played for each other. That's what's most important," said center Lynetta Kizer, who scored a career-high 19 points.The status of Chicago center Sylvia Fowles is unknown for this game. The league's second-leading rebounder (10.4 per game) has missed the past three contests with a strained calf.Cash has tried to make up for her absence, averaging 22.0 points and 10.5 boards over Chicago's past two road games. She scored a team-best 16 during the loss to Phoenix in June while Fowles finished with 11 on 3-of-12 shooting.Team scoring leader Epiphanny Prince missed that game with a broken foot but is averaging 21.3 points in six games this month.