Sun provide playoff checkup for Sky

The Chicago Sky will look to put Friday’s overtime miscue against Tulsa behind them. The bright side is that they’ll get up-close and familiar with their next opponent in a home-and-home scenario slated for Sunday and Tuesday. The tricky part? That opponent is the Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut Sun. If Tulsa was an appetizer, the Sky are about to get two heaping servings of the main course. At 17-5 atop the East standings, the Sun sit where the Sky hope to be by the end of the regular season, and these two matchups can go a long way toward deciding Chicago’s fate.

For two months, including a timely one-month break thanks to the 2012 Olympics in London, the Sky had been without its leading scorer, Epiphanny Prince. Now that Prince has recovered from a broken bone suffered on June 16, it’s only a matter of time before the team gels and returns to the dominance it displayed by starting the season winning seven of eight games. Chicago’s two Olympians, Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, stayed fresh by helping the US National Team take home the gold this summer. In the five games since the second half of the season began, Cash has experienced a resurgence of sorts – particularly on the scoring end – as she’s averaged better than 12 points and five rebounds per game while Fowles has remained consistent in averaging roughly 16 points and nine boards. Fowles still leads the league with 11.7 rebounds per game. At this rate, she’ll tie Connecticut’s Tina Charles’ record for most rebounds per game set in 2010.

Charles, meanwhile, is second in the league in rebounding with 11.0 per game to go with her team-leading 18-point scoring average. Also a member of Team USA, Charles has shown that as she goes, so goes the Sun. Connecticut (17-5) has won seven of their past eight and remains one game behind Minnesota for the best record in the league. Charles and Fowles have had memorable clashes over the years and in the lone game Chicago played Connecticut this season, Charles poured in 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help the Sun edge the Sky, 80-78, in overtime. In that game, Connecticut forward Mistie Mims had her best game of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Sky will look to keep her in check while also paying attention to guard Kara Lawson and her 14.7 points per game.

Prince wasted no time returning to form, dropping 16 and 18 points in her first two games in August. Once Chicago’s bench acclimates to the reinsertion of Prince to the lineup, the Sky may be primed for a run. The next four games will be a test of their playoff mettle, as all four contests come against playoff-caliber opponents: two against Connecticut, and one each against Indiana and Los Angeles.