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Chicago still hasn't found answer for replacing Sylvia Fowles

Minnesota and Chicago both had games this past weekend they needed to win to get back on track, and both were victorious. The difference is how far off the track they were.

For the Lynx, in a three-game losing skid after starting the season 13-0, it was like having an unexpected flat tire by the side of the road that needed to be fixed. They're now 14-3 and trail only 16-1 Los Angeles in the standings.

For the Sky, though, it was the continuing search to make sure they're even on the right road to the playoffs. They are 7-9 and part of the logjam of teams battling for the postseason.

When the Lynx and Sky meet Tuesday in Minnesota (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET), those storylines remain in focus, along with the background that lingers between them in regard to center Sylvia Fowles.

You could see some parallel between what Fowles did in 2015 -- sitting out and forcing a trade from Chicago to Minnesota -- to what Kevin Durant did Monday in leaving Oklahoma City to sign as a free agent with Golden State.

In both cases, these are players in the primes of their careers who didn't win a title with the organization that drafted them (Durant moved with the franchise from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008), opting to go to a team that recently had won a championship.

Obviously, the WNBA and NBA are completely different worlds in regard to salaries and exposure, but another way it's different is that Durant really was free to go wherever he chose. Fowles was not, despite having been in the league for seven years at the point she wanted out of Chicago.

She had the core-player designation, which meant she wasn't free to leave, but she could veto any trade she didn't want. Everyone knew she wanted to go to the Lynx and was willing to sit out all last season if that didn't happen. So, actually, neither Fowles nor the Sky were in great bargaining position, which is why the situation lingered into late July 2015.

Then a three-team deal involving Atlanta got done, and Fowles joined Minnesota. Though it did take a little work, she was successfully incorporated into the Lynx and helped them win the league championship, being named WNBA Finals MVP.

The Sky, who went to the WNBA Finals in Fowles' last year there, 2014, still haven't overcome her absence. Elena Delle Donne was league MVP last year, will be on the U.S. Olympic squad this year, and is having another strong season (20.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.1 APG).

Veteran guards Cappie Pondexter (13.0 PPG), Allie Quigley (9.0 PPG) and Courtney Vandersloot (8.2 PPG, 4.8 APG) continue to power the perimeter for the Sky. But their interior game is made up of players who are capable and serviceable, but not stars who consistently put up big numbers.

Rookie center Imani Boyette, 21, is the youngest of that crew and also the tallest at 6-foot-7. She has averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, which is decent production for a first-year post acclimating herself to the league.

But it all means a lot once again is riding on the shoulders of Delle Donne, who is one of the premier players in the world. But she is still just one player.

"It's very difficult -- they're a championship team," Delle Donne said of facing the Lynx, who beat the Sky 97-80 on May 18 in the second game of the season for both squads.

"Obviously, the season hasn't started off exactly as we'd want it to. We've had defensive lapses, and we've been working on it all season. But it's one of those things: You can't talk about it, you've got to do it. It's something we're trying to figure out."

Delle Donne had her first double-double of the season Friday with 28 points and 11 rebounds as Chicago edged Washington 86-84 in overtime, with Vandersloot hitting the game-winning shot with 4.6 seconds left.

Saturday, the Lynx got back to their winning ways by taking out their frustrations on San Antonio, winning 91-68 behind 21 points off the bench from Natasha Howard.

Minnesota had lost at home to Los Angeles, at Washington, and back home to New York going into the game with San Antonio. The Lynx just needed to find their bearings.

Hiccups like this aren't unusual during the course of a season, even for a team as good as Minnesota. The Lynx have been through things like this before. The important thing for them is maintaining one of the top two spots in the standings in order to get the early bye in the playoffs.

"I think we focus on coming together even more," guard Lindsay Whalen said of the mindset of the three-time champions. "We have to hone in on the little things on court as far as communicating."