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New York - The Connecticut Sun believed they could make the playoffs this year after enduring their 2013 summer of drudge.
The Sun brought in many new players, most of them young, to mesh with their remaining veteran core. Their overall vibe was better. Things were going to be different.
Connecticut plays Game 31 today. It's mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race with three games remaining. Realistically, it's fried.
The Sun are done if they lose at home today to the Washington Mystics (4 p.m.), and even a win may not stave off elimination. They'd be squeezed out of the playoff race if the Chicago Sky won at home tonight against the Atlanta Dream.
"We knew there were going to be struggles," veteran Kelsey Griffin said. "Did we necessarily predict this? Absolutely not. We wanted to make the playoffs. That was the goal for us.
"We still can. There is still hope."
Connecticut (11-20) has lost 14 of its last 17 games.
Washington (15-15) has beaten the Sun in all three meetings this season and the Mystics would take great satisfaction if they quashed their postseason hopes. Washington is coached by Mike Thibault, who led Connecticut for its first 10 years before being fired in November, 2012.
"I hope the competitive juices rise up in the last three games," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "We just attack opponent by opponent and do it with pride."
"It's easy to just say, 'it's over,'" Kelsey Bone said, "(but) crazy things can happen and have happened."
The Sun's dreadful perimeter game has been well-chronicled this season. They went 10 minutes, 9 seconds without a field goal in the first half of Friday's game at the New York Liberty. They somehow kept it close before falling 71-66.
Connecticut has the WNBA's worst field goal percentage (.412). Compounding matters, it's tied for ninth in defensive field goal percentage (.451). And that it's young. And that All-Star Allison Hightower has missed the last 12 games after knee surgery. And that All-Star rookie Chiney Ogwumike, the Sun's leading scorer and rebounder, has missed the last two games after having an abscessed tooth drained on Tuesday.
Ogwumike will be a game-time decision today.
Connecticut seemed to be on the rise when it went on a six-game winning streak in June. That included a 96-95 thriller over the league-leading Phoenix Mercury on June 12.
The defending champion Minnesota Lynx, Atlanta and Phoenix are the only other three teams that won six or more games in a row this season. All three are going to the playoffs and the Sun likely won't.
"The thing about this league is that you get such a short time together (32 regular-season games)," Griffin said. "We have started building, hopefully for the playoffs, but for next year. So when we come in, AT (Alyssa Thomas) and Chiney won't be rookies. AB (Alex Bentley) won't be a second-year player. Kelsey Bone won't be a second-year player.
"We can (build off) what we started. … Then we'll definitely be in the playoffs, and we can start building the kind of team that we want here in Connecticut and that Connecticut deserves."