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Mohegan - It stopped being about this season for the Connecticut Sun even before this game began. If Sunday's meltdown in Los Angeles - they blew a six-point lead in the last 23 seconds - didn't imperil their playoff hopes, the pregame news of Chiney Ogwumike's abscess (tooth) and subsequent absence left them little chance to beat Chicago and salvage whatever morsels remain.
And so while Tuesday's developments were vintage WNBA - national acclaim (for Becky Hammon) masking a crumbling infrastructure (incompetent officiating) - the officials over whom Sun coaches and players were incredulous actually did Connecticut a favor.
Here's why: Chicago's 82-66 victory moved the Sky into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It dropped New York to fifth and kept the Sun in last. The Sun, remember, also own New York's first-round draft pick next season. Hence, the game's outcome increased the chances that the Sun get the No. 1 overall pick, dropping New York into the lottery.
It's not a great draft. But there's a player or two (think Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) who could really help here. Mosqueda-Lewis, for instance, can shoot. Which would make her unique in a Sun uniform.
Go figure. Referees Tom Mauer, Kevin Sparrock and Lauren Holtkamp, who would have had a hard time maintaining order at a bake sale Tuesday night let alone a professional basketball game, just might have paved a smoother road to Kaleena.
And that's more important right now than a season swirling the bowl. The promise of a six-game win streak in June was a tease. The Sun aren't good enough at the moment under the categories of talent and experience. More talent will be here next season. So will more experience. And that's when you start to really judge coach Anne Donovan.
Put it this way: If we're having a "what's wrong with the Sun?" discourse next August, she wouldn't deserve a contract extension beyond the original three years. Next year is her third year. So for now, she survives on the promise of Ogwumike, Kelsey Bone, Alex Bentley, Chelsea Gray, perhaps Alba Torrens and a potential windfall in the draft.
We'll say this for Donovan: She was more animated than ever Tuesday night. The officials hit her with a technical before Donovan hit back after the game:
"I don't think I've ever been this frustrated in all of my years in the WNBA," she said. "I've never been this frustrated or disgruntled with the officiating. I've never seen it so bad, so lopsided and so horrific from start to finish."
Actually, she has. We all have. Until officiating catches up to the quality of play and the quality of athlete, this won't change. Because it never has. It would be helpful, though, if the league would, just once, publicly acknowledge the problem.
It would be helpful if the league watches this film. Donovan, Katie Douglas and Kelsey Bone hit with technicals in the same game merits further consideration. But then, officiating has merited further consideration in this league for years.
Donovan won't be the first coach to get fined for being entirely correct. Perhaps her words resonate. She's not prone to such pronouncements.
Meantime, the Sun can help their present Friday night in New York. But not nearly as much as their future. If they manage to beat the Liberty, they'd move a step closer toward ensuring New York's spot in the draft lottery. Think the concept of delayed gratification.
Hard to kill the Sun over Tuesday night. They played well in their last two road games, late-game disaster in Los Angeles notwithstanding. But no Ogwumike and Allie Hightower's lingering injury are too much for a marginally talented team to sustain.
"We're playing the right way," Katie Douglas said. "Hopefully things will go the right way sometime."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.