Cheyenne Parker has a telling description of what has ailed the Atlanta Dream lately.
"Right now, we're lacking toughness," Parker said. "That's what it's going to take for us to get to that next level."
Losers in five of its last six games, including all three on last week's Western Conference road swing, Atlanta will push for homecourt advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs when it hosts the Chicago Sky on Friday night in College Park, Ga.
The Dream (15-16) are 1 1/2 games behind the Dallas Wings for the No. 4 seed, the cutoff for homecourt advantage once the playoffs begin. But recent trends show an ominous sign, particularly with inconsistent defense. During its six-game stumble, Atlanta has allowed at least 85 points four times.
Coupled with shooting woes by top scorer Rhyne Howard, wins have been hard to come by. Howard is only 31-of-88 (35.2 percent) over the last six games, although she still averages 17.5 points per game on the season.
Chicago (12-18) also is in search of better play. The Sky have dropped three in a row, including an 83-76 decision on Sunday at Washington, to fall into a tie with Los Angeles for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"We weren't prepared well and that is my responsibility," said Chicago interim coach Emre Vatansever. "I take ownership of that. I could have prepared them well and I didn't."
Defense has been a big problem for Chicago. The team allowed at least 83 points in eight straight games, coughing up 107 last month in a loss at Las Vegas. For a team in the middle of the league in scoring at 80.5 points per game, it has been a recipe for failure.
Kahleah Copper is pacing the Sky's scoring attack at 18.9 points, while Marina Mabrey is at 15.0 points and Courtney Williams contributes 10.1.
The Dream are aiming for a season sweep of Chicago. They've won the first three meetings, including an 83-65 decision on May 30 in College Park.
—Field Level Media