Sun are back home preparing for playoffs

Renee Montgomery of the Sun drives to the basket against the Mercury on Sept. 7 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Renee Montgomery of the Sun drives to the basket against the Mercury on Sept. 7 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Mohegan They were in desperate need of a group nap Tuesday afternoon, a product of jet lag, a busier-than-boot-camp schedule and the general drudgery of a long season. But somehow, it all hurt so good for the brand new Eastern Conference regular season champs of the WNBA.

"Tired," Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "But happy."

Thibault chuckled Tuesday when he recalled the wacky events of Monday night. The hassles of air travel kept the Sun airborne at the moment the Indiana Fever lost at Minnesota, giving the Sun the regular season title and homecourt throughout the conference playoffs.

"As soon as the plane landed, it was a race to see who could turn on their phone first to get the score," Thibault said. "All of a sudden, you see all these hands go in the air at once."

And so now the Sun, who open the playoffs at home either next Thursday or Friday, get to regroup and finish the regular season. It begins tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena against Indiana (7 p.m., CPTV Sports).

"We're going to come out and play," Thibault said. "Sometimes, if you shut it down too much, you can't get your rhythm back."

Thibault said Danielle McCray, who sprained the medial collateral ligament in her knee, won't play tonight, but should be available by the playoffs. Asjha Jones, who has missed the last 13 games with a strained Achilles' tendon, may play tonight.

"We want to have Asjha go through some live practices. We haven't practiced 5-on-5, 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 for weeks," Thibault said. "Literally, it's play, travel, shootaround, watch film. Minimal practice time. We want to try to have her do something live and talk after. I don't think she feels confident going into a game because she hasn't had a lot of reps yet."

Jones' absence, however, has been among the primary reasons the Sun clinched with a week left.

They won with whomever was dressed that night, strengthening their resolve.

"We've stayed in games and stayed in games and found different ways to win them," guard Kara Lawson said. "We've not only played without Asjha, but we've played above .500 (8-5).

"We didn't have Tina (Charles) for a game, Mistie (Mims) for a couple of games. The players on our team don't care. Obviously, we want everyone to be healthy. But we feel we can beat whoever is across from us with whoever suits up that night."

Lawson also flashed a wry grin at the Sun's success during the pennant race.

"Everybody was telling me that Indiana was chasing us down. And I guess they were," Lawson said.

"But around that same time, the Orioles were catching the Yankees supposedly. I saw where (Derek) Jeter said, 'They can't catch you if you win.' That's right. If you win, why worry about someone catching you?"

The Sun conclude the regular season Sunday at home against Atlanta.

m.dimauro@theday.com

Tina Charles, waving to the crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 18 after returning from the Olympics, leads the Sun into tonight's game against the Indiana Fever. The Sun wrapped up the WNBA's Eastern Conference title Monday night.
Tina Charles, waving to the crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 18 after returning from the Olympics, leads the Sun into tonight's game against the Indiana Fever. The Sun wrapped up the WNBA's Eastern Conference title Monday night. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
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