It was likely going to be hard for the Atlanta Dream to beat the Seattle Storm even with star rookie guard Chennedy Carter in the lineup. The challenge becomes obviously greater without her on the court.
Mired in a five-game slide, the Dream could be minus Carter when they try to keep the surging Storm from a sixth consecutive win on Wednesday night at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Atlanta (2-6) is trying to rebuild itself into a playoff contender, and Carter is leading the way. The fourth overall pick in this year's draft has been one of the early breakout young stars with 17 points per game, highlighted by a 35-point effort the last time the Dream faced Seattle - a 93-92 loss last Tuesday.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, it could be without Carter for the rematch - and indefinitely - after she injured her ankle in the first quarter of Monday's 93-82 loss to Connecticut. According to ESPN, Carter received an X-ray and MRI, and word on her status was slated to come down soon.
Carter is the second notable WNBA rookie to suffer an ankle injury this season after Sabrina Ionescu, New York's No. 1 overall pick, suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain on July 31 against Atlanta.
"I don't know if we'll get her back, or how quickly," Dream coach Nicki Collen told ESPN and other media outlets on Monday.
Losing Carter for any extended period of time obviously would be a major blow for Atlanta, which ranks near the bottom of the league averaging 82.4 points.
"We're just trying to figure it out on the court," guard Alexis Jones told the Dream's official website. "Sometimes when a big player goes down like that it's hard to get back on that focus because you got to change the whole game.
"Chennedy is definitely our majority ball handler, and I think we were just trying to figure it out without her."
Carter's big night last week helped the Dream hang with the Storm (7-1), who led 31-16 after one quarter. Breanna Stewart had 27 points as Seattle benefited from a 16-0 run and ultimately held on to beat Atlanta.
Entering play Tuesday, the Storm sat atop the league and continue to roll following an 89-71 win over Chicago on Monday. Stewart had 25 points with seven assists for Seattle, which led 33-18 after one quarter, shot 51.4 percent from the field and 9 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"I was really pleased with overall effort," coach Gary Kloppenburg told the Storm's official website. "You know, I think we set the tone defensively early on, on how we wanted to disrupt their team."
While a healthy Stewart (20.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game) is again playing at an MVP level, the Storm continue to thrive while playing the last five games without fellow star Sue Bird. Dealing with a knee bruise, it's uncertain when Bird will return to action.