First-place Sun get back to playoff chase

Tina Charles, left, and the Connecticut Sun begin the second portion of their season today with a game against the New York Liberty in Newark, N.J. The Sun are in first place following a month break for the Olympics.
Tina Charles, left, and the Connecticut Sun begin the second portion of their season today with a game against the New York Liberty in Newark, N.J. The Sun are in first place following a month break for the Olympics. Sean D. Elliot/ The Day Buy Photo

Mohegan - It has been a month of anticipation - and some satisfaction - for the Connecticut Sun, whose pre-Olympic break resume was exemplary: tied for the best record in the WNBA, three-game lead in the Eastern Conference, levels of improvement everywhere.

But while it would be unfair to call it irrelevant, it was a mere appetizer for the rest of the season. And a run toward a possible top seed in the playoffs begins tonight against the New York Liberty at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Connecticut (15-4) plays New York twice in the first three days, a renewal of one of the league's best rivalries. The Liberty (6-12) are 2.5 games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and figure to be desperate. It's part of a few themes the Sun will see every night from their opponents: desperation and urgency.

"It's what we need," guard Kara Lawson said Wednesday, not long after the Sun made final preparations and boarded a bus for New Jersey. "I guess we'll see if we're ready. The way the schedule sets up in the second half is perfect preparation for the postseason."

The Sun have two lengthy road trips woven into their final 15 games, including a mid-September west coast trip, with stops at Los Angeles and Seattle, two teams that beat the Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Lawson said before the team's last trip to New York - to open the season - that Connecticut had to play better on the road and improve its execution in the fourth quarter, two areas where the Sun coughed and wheezed last year. They're a league-best 8-1 on the road and with the exception of hiccups in the aforementioned Los Angeles and Seattle games, have been significantly better in late-game situations.

"By no means are we a finished product," Lawson said. "We've won games we're supposed to win. I'm concerned about us continuing to build, so we can be the best team at the end, not right now.

• The Sun signed veteran center and former UConn great Jessica Moore to a seven-day contract Wednesday, waiving rookie center Chay Shegog.

Moore appeared in 29 games for the Sun in 2011 but was not re-signed because of a knee injury she sustained in the offseason. Moore eventually signed with Atlanta, but was recently waived by the Dream.

• The Sun will present Rebecca Lobo with the inaugural Margo Dydek Award as part of its celebration of Inspiring Women, Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena during the Sun-Liberty game.

The centerpiece of the Inspiring Women Program, the Margo Dydek Award is named in honor of the former Connecticut Sun all-star who died unexpectedly at the age of 37 on May 27, 2011. Dydek was an accomplished professional who finished her WNBA career as the all-time leader in blocks, but she was better known for a warm and open spirit that endeared her to so many women's basketball fans around the world. The Margo Dydek Award will be presented annually to one woman who reflects those qualities.

Lobo will be honored along with Joanne Kasprzak, Chris Gullotta and Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz - the first members of the Connecticut Sun's Women of Inspiration program. Lobo will receive a check for $1,000 from the Connecticut Sun Foundation to donate to her favorite charity.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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