Sun want to accomplish as much as they can before they're gone
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun want to accomplish as much as they can during this before taking their show on the road.
The Sun will all but disappear the next five weeks after Saturday’s home game against the winless Indiana Fever (Mohegan Sun Arena, 7 p.m.), playing 13 of their next 16 games on the road.
“We have a chance to do what we wanted and really start strong in our three-game homestand. ... before we leave to be the traveling journeymen,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said.
The Sun (2-0) broke from the starting gate like zombies the past two seasons. They had the worst start in franchise history in 2016 (1-7) and lost 13 of their first 16, too. They started 1-5 last year before suddenly reversing course and finishing 21-13.
Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Sparks was the biggest one on Connecticut's homestand. It just so happened that circumstances dictated that the Sun go full throttle by using a short bench to beat them. It worked as they won 102-94, snapping a six-game losing streak to L.A.
The Sparks were playing their third game in five days. Connecticut hadn’t played since Sunday's season-opener.
“Luckily, this is a week where we have only three games in seven days,” Miller said. “That sounds like a lot of games, but that’s literally a vacation during this compacted schedule (this season).”
It was the pefect time to play Los Angeles, too, because the Sparks were without three players, including two-time MVP Candace Parker (minor back injury) and sixth-woman Jantel Lavender (overseas).
The Sparks are dangerous enough shorthanded, as proven by its 77-76 road win over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Sunday. They were favored to win their second WNBA title in three seasons in the preseason GM survey.
Best to do everything possible to get a win before Los Angeles has a full arsenal and begins torching the league and salting the earth.
“We know that a huge piece of their puzzle (Parker) was missing, but I think it's huge for our confidence,” Chiney Ogwumike said. "This is the same L.A. that beat Minnesota.”
Miller had seven players go 23-plus minutes against the Sparks but still mixed things up. Shekinna Stricklen started at small forward and scored nine of her 11 in the first quarter. She didn’t play the fourth quarter.
Alex Bentley (guard) didn’t start. She was such a second-half catalyst that she played the entire fourth quarter.
Miller rested starting point guard Jasmine Thomas after she had played the first 15 minutes of the second half. The Sun trailed when she sat, 86-82, with four minutes, 46 seconds left in the game.
Thomas returned with under a minute left and Connecticut leading, 96-90.
“I rolled the dice in stretches there in the fourth quarter and had two starters out,” Miller said. “That’s how much confidence I have in our bench.”
Miller also had Jonquel Jones (6-foot-6) and Ogwumike (6-4) play together for almost the entire fourth quarter. The two didn’t play together a lot during Jones’ 2016 rookie season, and Ogwumike missed all of last year to an Achilles injury.
“I gotta’ give more minutes to (post) Morgan (Tuck),” Miller said. “Brie (center Brionna Jones) had a tremendous camp. (Rookie point guard) Lexie (Brown) is incredibly talented. It’s hard to get everybody out there. They deserve (minutes), but if they’ll just stick together in that locker room and know that some nights, it’s going to be someone's (turn), other nights it's not."