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Mohegan - It was after the Connecticut Sun suffered an alarming loss to last-place Phoenix during the regular season that season ticket holder Nancy Delacruz brought a one-word sign to the next game that made the point concisely:
She didn't mean "rebound" from a bad loss. She meant it much more literally. As in: When the other guys miss, get the ball. Phoenix outrebounded the Sun by more than 20 in the aforementioned game.
Delacruz might consider making the drive to Newark tonight with the same sign. If the Sun are to close out the New York Liberty and win their first playoff series since 2006, they'll need to rebound the ball considerably better.
The Sun allowed New York to grab 17 offensive rebounds in Connecticut's 65-60 win in Game 1 Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun can advance to the Eastern Conference finals tonight at the Prudential Center (7 p.m. NBA TV).
"The thing that is so important in playoff series is that you have a short memory," Sun guard Kara Lawson said. "When you win, you can't feel good about it. You can't go in and think that another one is going to come because there are so many things that you can improve on. When you lose, you have to forget about it because there is another game to prepare for. They are obviously much better at home, so we're going to have to go down there and try to get a win and close out the series. That's our goal."
League Most Valuable Player Tina Charles had but three rebounds Thursday, although Asjha Jones (nine), Allison Hightower (five) and Lawson (six) made Charles' number a duller ache.
Connecticut will likely contend with an ornery Cappie Pondexter, too. Pondexter, who leads the Liberty in scoring, led New York with 14 points Thursday, but left the arena disappointed in herself.
"I think this might have been the worst playoff game I ever played. I wasn't smart at all," Pondexter said. "I didn't give us a chance to at least be close in the game in the fourth quarter. I kinda blame myself. I definitely have to be smarter in Game 2. This team has been tough to beat all year but I'm still optimistic that we can win and bring it back to game three."
New York coach John Whisenant said there's a reason for that.
"They've got more scoring options than most teams, so they're hard to defend," he said. "But after the first quarter we gave ourselves a chance to win and they're the Eastern Conference champions. We rebounded with them which is good. We've had difficulty with that at times in the past. Give them credit for what they did. They changed defenses and changed things up but we haven't thrown in the towel yet."