Sun's Stricklen has been heating up

Mohegan — Shekinna Stricklen has been feeling the rhythm of late.

Stricklen is a starting wing for the Connecticut Sun whose primary job on offense is to knock down 3-pointers. That talent is coveted by head coach Curt Miller as his offense is predicated on spacing.

Stricklen struggled to make any shots through the first three games of the season. She’s since found her stroke and has contributed to Connecticut’s WNBA-leading 8-1 start that matches a franchise record.

“I’d been waiting to find a rhythm, and it feels great,” Stricklen said after Sunday’s 81-67 win over the Seattle Storm. “It’s just confidence. (I’ve been) a lot more aggressive. … (I’ve) just been able to step up my game a little more; pull up off the dribble or get to the basket or something.”

Stricklen wasn’t known as a 3-point shooter when the Seattle Storm drafted her second overall in 2012. That shot has become her calling card as a pro and a big reason she starts for the Sun. She hasn’t been their primary scoring threat, rather she’s tasked with providing a few daggers when open.

Shooters get on runs, no matter how reliable they are. Washington’s Kristi Toliver, for instance, has been one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history (she’s averaged 38.9 percent, tied with Sue Bird for the third-best).

Toliver made just 10 of 39 shots through the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals last season against Atlanta. She righted herself after that, and the Mystics won the series in five games.

Stricklen has historically been streaky and she was cold through the first three games this season. She made just 5 of 23 shots (21.7 percent). That included making just 4 of 20 3-pointers (20 percent).

Stricklen has made 27 of 52 shots over the last six games (51.9 percent). All but six of those field goals were 3-pointers. She leads the league in 3-pointers made (25) and per game (2.8), while upping her overall 3-point average to 40.3 percent.

“She’s battled herself all the way back up,” Miller said. “She just doesn’t need a lot of space. She’s the benefactor of a facilitating four (power forward Alyssa Thomas) and unselfish players on our team.

“You can see (the way) Strick is shooting right now, there’s a lot of confidence.”

According to the statistics compiled by Minnesota statistician Paul Swanson, Stricklen has shot 42.6 percent (23 of 54) from 22-to-26 feet. That’s fourth best in the league among players with 20-or-more attempts from that range.

Stricklen matched her season high in points (16) during Sunday’s win. She benefited a few times when post Jonquel Jones was double-teamed.

Jones, in her fourth season, has improved passing out of double teams and found Stricklen a few times for open shots.

“I can totally feel it,” Stricklen said about her shooting rhythm. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates. They penetrate (the lane) a lot, draw a lot (of defenders) and they kick it out to me.”

“I think I’ve got the easy part — just shoot it.”

• Jones earned her third straight Eastern Conference Player of the Week award on Monday. She averaged 17.7 points, 10 rebounds and 1.67 blocks as the Sun went 3-0.

n.griffen@theday.com

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