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Five Numbers to Explain the Sky's Roller-Coaster Season

Rising superstar Elena Delle Donne has started in less than a third of their games; defensive anchor Sylvia Fowles missed the season's first five weeks; and they've endured separate losing streaks of three, four and six games.

Yet after riding that roller coaster for nearly three months, the Chicago Sky are inching back to where it always appeared they would be: in contention for the East title.

The Sky have won four of five games since Delle Donne returned from her Lyme disease flare-up at the end of July, which instantly makes them the hottest team in a topsy turvy conference.

Here are five key numbers to explain Chicago's rise, fall and rise again:

The Sky have outscored opponents by 3.8 points per game in the 14 games that Delle Donne has played. That would rank third in the league and first in the East, ahead of Atlanta's +2.2 point differential. They've been outscored by an average of 5.2 points per game in their 17 games without Delle Donne. That would rank last in the league behind Seattle's -3.9.

RecordPoints Per GamePoints Allowed Per Game
With EDD9-579.375.5
Without EDD5-1275.780.9

Chicago has played just six games with its Big 3 of Delle Donne, Fowles and guard Epiphanny Prince in the lineup. They're 4-2 in those games, including four double-digit wins in their last five games, and Prince has dished out 31 assists compared to just six turnovers in those matchups.

Delle Donne has logged just 17 minutes per game since her return, a sign that things could turn even brighter once she's back at full strength. Before missing 17 of 18 games, the 2013 Rookie of the Year looked poised to make an MVP run, averaging 22.3 points in her first eight games, including 54/56 at the foul line.

Role players Allie Quigley and Jessica Breland are averaging a combined 21.2 points per game -- a huge development in making the Sky a well-rounded team. Quigley (10.8 ppg), who had never averaged more than 9.4 minutes and 3.8 points entering the season, has emerged as one of the league's best bench scorers. Breland has broken out in her fourth season with her fourth team, becoming an ideal rebounding and shot-blocking partner for Fowles.

Chicago's magic number to clinch a playoff berth is four (any combination of Sky wins and Liberty losses that adds up to four) -- a remarkable feat for a team that at one time lost 13 of 16 games during a mid-season swoon.