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Sinking Sun searching for answers

The Connecticut Sun began the season with a 74-61 home win over the Chicago Sky, but coach Mike Thibault was annoyed afterward by his team's poor execution late in the game.

"How many games did I walk out of (a win) and was worried about how we played and said it would catch up to us if we weren't careful?" Thibault said.

The past six weeks have been the sum of all fears for Thibault. The Sun have lost nine of their last 13 games and slipped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They play at the league-leading Seattle Storm tonight (KeyArena, 10:30, ESPN2).

Connecticut (13-13) is on a three-game losing streak.

"Coaches judge their team much differently than fans or the media do," Thibault said. "There's more of a sense of reality amongst us than anybody else. I told our players, and they will tell you, that there were at least three games in the first nine, if not more, where they got scolded after the game because of how we finished or how we played or our habits in the game that weren't good. Throwing away possessions, those kinds of things.

"Our record has nothing to do with how we're playing. We're playing better in certain aspects of the game than we were early, but we're not getting better results. Part of it is turnovers. Part of it is who we're playing (better teams). It's not just one thing."

Optimism around the Sun was high this season after they added six new players, including Tina Charles, Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery. Things looked good when they started 9-4.

Connecticut has since been plagued by inconsistency and injuries. It's turned the ball over 59 times in the last three games, including 21 in Sunday's 71-67 loss at the New York Liberty. New York scored 26 points off turnovers.

All-Star forward Asjha Jones has only begun to look like her old self after offseason surgery on her ailing right Achilles' tendon. Starting guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota required arthroscopic surgery on her right knee July 8. Lawson's right quadriceps began acting up of late and has limited her practice and playing time.

Thibault handles Connecticut's personnel decisions. Asked if he overestimated his team's abilities before the season, he said, "I don't know if I overestimated their abilities or overestimated a quickness to adapt to certain things, but I'll say this - I think it's been difficult on players and coaches alike to keep having to kind of monkey with things as the season goes along.

"Injuries and our lineup and everything else, I don't think we've done a good job with that and, as coach, obviously that's my responsibility."

Thibault also brought in younger players, such as rookies Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower and Charles.

"I don't care how many games Kelsey, Allison, Tina and Renee played in college, it has nothing to do with pro basketball right now," Thibault said. "Learning how to win in the pros is different. Maybe it's taking longer than I hoped for."

The Sun are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with eight games to play. Only the top four teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.

Connecticut is two games behind the fourth-place New York Liberty. Mathematically, it trails by three games because the Liberty won the season series.

The Sun are three games behind both the Indiana Fever and Washington Mystics. They play a home-and-home series next week against Washington. They also play host to Indiana on Aug. 15.

Seattle (22-4) will be in a bad mood having finally lost consecutive games. It's led by the trio of Lauren Jackson (21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds), Swin Cash (14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Sue Bird (12.4 points, 5.7 assists).

n.griffen@theday.com

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