Dallas Wings v Los Angeles Sparks
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The Dallas Wings' disappointing start to the season continued on Saturday afternoon with easily their worst loss yet, a 28-point embarrassment against the last-place Washington Mystics. Now 3-12 on the season, the Wings have lost 10 games in a row and their hopes of making the playoffs are already fading away. 

Less than a year ago, the Wings were battling the back-to-back champion Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals of the playoffs and had just posted their first 20-win regular season since 2008. With a new coach and two young stars, they appeared to be a team on the rise. Now, they're one of the worst in the league. 

As the mid-way point of the season approaches, it's worth examining how it's all gone wrong in Dallas. 

Injuries, injuries, injuries

Bad injury luck is the root of all of the Wings' problems, and it started before the season. 

In February, reigning Most Improved Player and First Team All-WNBA honoree Satou Sabally hurt her shoulder while playing for the German national team in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Brazil. She ended up needing surgery and is not expected back until after the All-Star break in August -- though she will also play for Germany in Paris. Sabally is the Wings' best player and there's no replacing what she does on both sides of the ball. 

Despite Sabally's absence, the Wings beat the Chicago Sky on opening night, a sign that they might be able to hang in there until she returned. In the process, however, former Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard broke her foot and promising rookie Jaelyn Brown fractured her nose. Howard, who was coming off one of the best seasons of her career, ended up missing 12 games before returning on June 20. Brown has not played since. 

One of the silver linings of the injury issues was that second-year forward Maddy Siegrist was forced into a bigger role and had been excelling. Then, earlier this week she fractured her finger in a loss to the Minnesota Lynx and will be out eight weeks after undergoing surgery. 

Even Arike Ogbunowale had a one-game absence due to a sore Achilles tendon. 

For much of the season, the Wings have been without Sabally and Howard, two of their top-three scorers from last season and their two most versatile defenders. Together, they combined for 39.8 points, 16.1 rebounds, seven assists, 3.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game last season, and missed just three combined games. Dallas may have been able to withstand losing one of them for an extended period, but both of them was too much to deal with. 

A disappearing defense

Once upon a time, when they were still the Detroit Shock, the franchise won three titles and made four Finals appearances in six seasons on the back of outstanding defense. Since leaving the Motor City, however, that side of the ball has been a major issue. 

In 15 seasons, first as the Tulsa Shock and now as the Dallas Wings, the organization has never ranked higher than eighth in the league in defensive rating. 

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Fixing the team's defense was one of the big goals for head coach Latricia Trammell when she took over ahead of last season, and there had been some positive signs. This season has seen them take a few steps back, largely because of the injuries and other personnel moves. 

Sabally and Howard have missed extensive time, while Awak Kuier, another long, athletic forward, is taking the season off for personal reasons, and Veronica Burton, one of their better perimeter defenders, was waived during training camp. There's no remedy for losing that much defensive talent, especially when you're already one of the least experienced teams. For much of the season, the Wings have only had four active players with more than one year of experience, and it was only that many because they signed Monique Billings to a hardship contract. 

It hasn't helped that the Wings have been a turnover machine on offense and are getting crushed on the defensive glass, which is allowing other teams to rack up easy buckets. They are allowing 19.5 points per game off turnovers, 12.3 fastbreak points, 16.9 second-chance points and 40.8 points in the paint, and rank last in the league in all four categories. 

No help from the schedule makers

The Wings' injuries were always going to make the first five weeks of the season difficult, but their tough recent schedule has magnified the issue. During the 10-game losing streak, they've played the Connecticut Sun and Minnesota Lynx twice each, the Las Vegas Aces, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm, and six of the 10 games have been on the road. 

As surprising as the blowout loss to the Mystics was on Saturday, it was the third game of a four-game road trip, and the middle of a three-games-in-four-days stretch. Even with Howard back now, this is a weary team running low on confidence. Another contest with the Mystics on Sunday will provide the best chance to end this skid. After that, they're right back into the thick of it with matchups against the Lynx, Storm and Mercury comprising their next four games. 

This is already tied for the fifth-longest losing streak in franchise history, and it's very possible it rises even higher in the next few weeks. If there's any good news, it's that they're still a long ways away from the WNBA's all-time record of 20 consecutive losses, which they set themselves in Tulsa in 2011.