Not a good time for Sun to be struggling on D

New London - The Connecticut Sun spent 90 minutes Wednesday watching film of their previous two games.

The reviews weren't positive.

"I watch the tape after every game," Connecticut's Kara Lawson said, "so I had the misfortune of having to see that crap twice."

Added coach Mike Thibault: "There was a lot of 'ohhhhh' (from the players). Film doesn't lie."

Connecticut has fallen into a defensive rut, a problem made worse because the high-scoring Phoenix Mercury visit Mohegan Sun Arena tonight (7:30, CSN).

Phoenix, the defending WNBA champion, has the league's highest-scoring offense (93.4 points per game) and two of the league's top scorers - Diana Taurasi (first, 23.1 points) and Penny Taylor (eighth, 16.8).

Taurasi (40.1 percent), Taylor (40 percent) and Temeka Johnson (38.1 percent) are among the league's best 3-point shooters, too.

"A team like Phoenix with so much firepower, we need to make them work a little bit harder for their shots," Lawson said. "They don't need any help."

Defense had been one of the Sun's strengths through 10 games, and they're still ranked third in defensive field goal percentage (42.6).

But the defensive lapses began at Phoenix Sunday when the Mercury shot 45.1 percent from the field.

The most frightening thing about that game was that Connecticut couldn't maintain an 84-63 lead with under a minute left in the third quarter. The Mercury rallied with a 24-2 run to go ahead, but the Sun (8-4) escaped with a 96-94 win.

Chicago had lost four straight games prior to Tuesday's 86-77 win at Connecticut. The Sky shot 46.9 percent.

"Bad fundamentals," Thibault said. "It's not one thing. When you're watching the film, it's different people at different times. It's one player on one possession, it's another player on another possession. All it takes is one to break down your team concepts, and if they take turns doing it, it hurts."

Said Lawson: "You think you're playing hard, and then you see yourself on tape and you're sluggish, allowing easy drives, allowing easy looks at the basket."

The Sun couldn't keep either team from driving to the rim. Phoenix made 16 of 19 layups. Chicago made 17 of 31.

"We've got to be more active, put more pressure (on teams) and make things more difficult," Lawson said. "We have not been doing that, so I think it's more of an effort thing.

"To be honest, consistently, the only player that has done that is Tan (White). She's been really aggressive out in passing lanes and doing a great job, but everyone else has not been up to par. We've got to step it up.

The Mercury (5-7) have struggled this season, but they're still scoring at a furious pace. They set a WNBA single-game scoring record for points in a 116-84 win over Tulsa on June 12.

Phoenix then lost its next game, 108-105, to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

"Against a team like Phoenix," Lawson said, "sometimes you're scoring so easily that you kind of fall into that Saturday morning, YMCA kind of I'll-let-you-score-if-you-let-me-score type thing, which is what they want you to do. We've definitely got to alter our personality a little bit on the defensive end."

Thibault said, "Defending is an every-day, every-possession thing if you're going to be great at it. If you want to be average, you can be average. We'll be average. I just asked them if they want to be average or good, or good or great. Great requires a lot of work."

n.griffen@theday.com

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