Sun, Fever play for spot in WNBA Finals tonight

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault is expecting a loud and passionate crowd tonight when the Sun face the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena in the deciding game of the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals.
Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault is expecting a loud and passionate crowd tonight when the Sun face the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena in the deciding game of the WNBA's Eastern Conference finals. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Mohegan — It was during the postgame news conference earlier this week that Katie Douglas said the following about her pursuit of the WNBA Finals, conveying the obsession of Tommy Lee Jones chasing Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive."

"It's like a burn," she said. "There's definitely a degree of urgency. I'm not saying I'm old, but I'm one of the older players in this league. There's an extreme amount of urgency."

And that's where we've arrived: a night about the burn, the urgency and the hope and wonder of an entire season. The Connecticut Sun and the Indiana Fever play Game 3 of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals, a knockout game tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena (8:30 p.m., ESPN2).

The winner raises a conference championship banner and gets defending champion Minnesota in the finals Sunday night. The loser gets an offseason of shouldas, wouldas and couldas.

Indiana forced this game with a frantic, 78-76 win in Game 2, raising its record to 3-0 this season in knockout games. This is the first time the Sun have faced such circumstances.

"This is supposed to be fun," Sun coach Mike Thibault said Wednesday, after preparing his team for the franchise's biggest game the 2006 conference finals against Detroit. "If you don't like playing in these kinds of games, you shouldn't be in this business."

This game, among all its storylines, features four marquee, thirtysomething players: Douglas and Tamika Catchings, both of whom turned 33 earlier this year, and Kara Lawson (31) and Asjha Jones (32) for the Sun. And while many of us would give a lung to be that young again, the aforementioned quartet is on the back nine of their careers.

"Asjha and Kara have the same burn those guys do. What right do they have to it more? It's the same emotion," Thibault said. "I think this series has gotten to the point where people need to make smart decisions to win. We made bad decisions the other night. I don't think we'll make the same ones (tonight)."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma remains steadfast in his belief that the hardest game to win in the NCAA tournament is the Elite Eight game, the final obstacle before the Final Four. This is the "Elite Eight" game for both teams.

"I can't think of another game I've more looked forward to," Lawson said. "It's been a while since I've been in this position. How many opportunities do you get in your career to play in a game where the winner goes to the finals?

"Even players that have two or three rings, how many games have they played where the winner goes to the finals? If you've had a fantastic career, maybe you fill up one hand."

This is Lawson's fifth conference final in her WNBA career. Jones has played in three.

"I was talking with Tan (White). This is her first time and she's had eight years in the league," Lawson said. "How many chances do you get? Last time I had that chance was six years ago. I'm not going to be here six years from now. The urgency is the same on both sides. We're all at the same points in our careers. The urgency is very high for Asjha and myself."

Douglas has scored a combined 51 points in the two games. Thibault cracked the other night that his tombstone will read, "make Katie Douglas go right."

Douglas credited Thibault with teaching her the pick and roll.

"But I didn't teach her how to be mouthy," Thibault said with a hearty chuckle and not a hint of anger.

And so it goes. Sun vs. Fever. Veterans vs. Veterans. Burn vs. Burn.

"Asjha and Kara will stay calm when the storm is brewing. That's what they have (with their players) too. That's why the two teams are still playing," Thibault said. "We played all season to get homecourt. We'll have fans that, I would hope, give us the extra juice. They can burn all they want. It's a test of wills. Who gives in first?"

m.dimauro@theday.com

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