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Sun look forward to spending time at home

Curt Miller was getting antsy Wednesday afternoon, scrambling to leave home to catch a filght to Seattle to coach in this weekend’s WNBA All-Star Game.

Mercifully for Miller, he and the Connecticut Sun won’t be traveling too much the rest of the season.

No one in the WNBA has been away from home more than the Sun. Thirteen of their 21 games were on the road, giving them a steady diet of taking early-morning commercial flights (and delays) and hotel rooms as they bounced about the country.

The Sun managed to get through the travel grind — as well as injuries, absences, and a lot of youth — and put themselves in good shape to end their four-year playoff drought. They’ve been the league’s best surprise and are tied with the Washington Mystics for third place in the overall standings (the top eight teams qualify for the postseason, regardless of conference) headed into the All-Star break.

“I think we’ve overachieved, and not only because we endured significant injuries and lost time between Morgan (Tuck) and (Lynetta) Kizer, and the departure of Alex Bentley for (the FIBA EuroBasket Women’s tournament),” Miller said. “I’m really, really proud of the success we had during the first half of the season. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. … We just kept on looking for the next answer and the players have had a great attitude.

“Having the success we’ve had with the brutal travel schedule that we’ve had. … the stretches we’ve had and the lack of preparation time (due to travel), I take my hat off to them. I think the thing that is the most surprising, but the most rewarding, is we’ve been one of the few teams with a winning record on the road.”

Connecticut (12-9) is one of three teams with a winning road record (7-6). The league-leading Minnesota Lynx (8-1) and Phoenix Mercury (5-3) are the other two.

The Sun will play nine of their final 13 games at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Goodbye uncomfortable hotel beds. Hello home cooking.

“With the schedule that we had the first half of the season, our preparation didn’t always include practices,” Miller said. “Practices were more mentally and film-oriented and, at times, for a lack of a better word, glorified walk-throughs. … We were always cognizant of keeping them off their feet as much as possible.

“Now, as the schedule opens up with home games, that gives us time to get back to work on the floor. … We’re not going to talk about the end results. We’re going to get back to the basics; talk about the nuances of the offense and defensive end, the core principles that we believe in, and really get back to work on them.”

The Sun may get to enjoy spending more time around their homes, but it ultimately guarantees nothing. Only four games separate they and the Mystics from the Chicago Sky (8-13), which are second-to-last.

Chicago is also a great example of how much the WNBA has changed over the past two weeks. It has bounced back from an awful start and won five of their last six. It’s the only team to beat the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks (82-80) and Minnesota (100-76). It plays at the Sun next Tuesday.

The New York Liberty (10-9), which have been as enigmatic as they are talented, may have found a successful formula. They've won two straight after moving point guard Bria Hartley into the starting lineup. They thumped Connecticut on Wednesday, 96-80.

Phoenix has lost two straight since Brittney Griner suffered both a knee bruise and ankle injury on July 14. That includes Wednesday’s 84-77 home loss to the struggling Indiana Fever, which had lost six of their previous seven games. Griner is expected to be out three-to-four weeks.

Washington lost Tayler Hill, its second-leading scorer, to a season-ending knee injury last Friday. Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA MVP, injured her ankle in that same game and is out indefinitely.

“A lot of people have doubted us and we feed off of that,” Sun Alyssa Thomas said after Wednesday’s loss. “We have to rebound (from the loss) and get ready for this second half of the season because teams are going to come at us even harder.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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