Timing has rarely been on the side of the Chicago Sky this season.
A long list of injuries, illness and other problems has provided a constant challenge since the start of the season. And just as some players have come back from their setbacks, others have been forced out.
The Sky has struggled to get everyone on the same page at the same time. Only once has the Sky had its full lineup in place this season.
But here's one silver lining that you can set your watch to: The timing of the Sky's struggles, which continued on Wednesday afternoon with a 72-65 loss to the Washington Mystics at Allstate Arena, coincide nicely with a mediocrity that has come to define the Eastern Conference of the WNBA. Besides the Atlanta Dream, which sits atop the standings with a 13-5 record, no other team in the Eastern Conference has more than 9 wins.
The 8-11 Sky, which has lost its last three games and 10 of its last 13, would make the Eastern Conference playoffs if the postseason started today.
"It's fortunate, yeah," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said of the state of the Eastern Conference. "But it also gives (the players) an understanding that 'Hey, we can correct this and we're right there.'"
The Sky, which got 19 points and 17 rebounds from center Sylvia Fowles in her sixth game back since returning from hip surgery, has been struggling since star forward Elena Delle Donne became ill. Delle Donne, who has said she is suffering from a flare-up of Lyme disease, has played in one game since June 7. Down 10 games on the season, she was leading the Sky in scoring at 21.2 points per game.
Delle Donne, who still earned the most fan votes in the Eastern Conference for next week's all-star game, is home in Delaware seeking more treatments.
"I don't think she'll be out for the season," Chatman said. "If someone made me bet on it, I'd say (Delle Donne would be back) after the all-star break (next weekend). But it's every other day that I check in with Elena.
"The reason it's so touch-and-go is that she'll have two treatments and then they'll retest to determine how she feels, so it's really a tight window and it's hard to say (when exactly Delle Donne will return)."
The Sky, which was hosting "Camp Day" and set a single-game attendance record (16,402), got 14 points from guard Epiphanny Prince and 13 points from rookie point guard Jamierrra Faulkner, who started her fourth game in place of Courtney Vandersloot, who is out six to 10 weeks with a knee injury.
Jessica Breland added 10 points for the Sky, which allowed too many extra opportunities for the Mystics. Washington, up by as many as 13 points, outscored the Sky 16-5 in second-chance points.
Washington (8-12) was led by rookie guard Bria Hartley with 16 points, including three 3-pointers.