Sun take it easy in regular-season finale loss to Fever
Indianapolis — The majority of Connecticut Sun starters were all but given Sunday off.
Now all of the Sun gets to enjoy a little rest.
Connecticut had nothing to gain against the Indiana Fever as it already clinched the second seed in the WNBA playoffs and a double-bye to the best-of-five semifinals.
It was a lazy Sunday, then, for most of Connecticut starters. They mostly watched from the bench in a 104-76 loss before 5,451 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Connecticut (23-11) won 20-or-more games for the third straight season. It clinching a top-two seed and a double bye on Sept. 2.
“Our only goal tonight was to get out injury free; to be ready for the semis,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said.
The Sun will have eight days off to rest and prepare for the semifinals.
Games 1 and 2 will be on Tuesday, Sept. 17 and 19 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Both games start at 6:30 p.m.
Miller said after Friday’s game against the Chicago Sky that he’d give the team Monday and Tuesday off, practice Wednesday and Thursday, rest the next two days, and then practice again next Sunday and Monday.
Connecticut was extraordinarily lucky when it came to the health of its starters this season. It’s just the fourth team in league history to go an entire season with the same starters, and just the second in a 34-game season.
Starters Jonquel Jones, Shekinna Stricklen, Courtney Williams and Alyssa and Jasmine Thomas all played more minutes late in the season as injuries to their bench began piling up.
Alyssa Thomas, Jones, and Stricklen and all played less than 15 minutes on Sunday.
Jones, a candidate for All-WNBA first-team honors, played just 10 minutes, 49 seconds. She still finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
Jones finished as the WNBA’s leading rebounder (330, 9.7 rpg) for the second time in her four-year career. She also had a league-leading 68 blocks.
Reserve Brionna Jones played a team-high 30 minutes and was the only other Sun player in double figures (14 points, 10 rebounds).
Alyssa Thomas finished third in the league in steals (1.9) as Connecticut set a single-season franchise record in that category (303).
Kelsey Mitchell broke a WNBA record with nine 3-pointers and set a franchise record with 38 points for Indiana (13-21). Rookie Teaira McCowan added 17 points and nine rebounds.
“Indiana was great,” Miller said. “We’ve talked about doing things that we do well, (and I) didn’t think we did some of those things. But hats off to them.
“Obviously, they’re playing for a different reason than we’re playing. And ultimately the only thing that matters for us tonight was to get out injury free and we did. So now we’re in the semis.”
Reserve Bria Holmes made two free throws to give Connecticut a 24-23 lead with 9:03 left in the second quarter.
It was the Sun’s last lead as Mitchell answered with a 3-pointer 22 seconds later.
Mitchell made 7-of-9 3-pointers in the first half alone and had 30 points.
“I think we came out with good energy,” Jonquel Jones said. “Kelsey (Mitchell) played an awesome game.
“We came out kind of being a little more conservative with everything that’s coming up too, with this game not really changing our standings whether we win or lose.”
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The Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks shared the best WNBA home record this season. Connecticut has home-court advantage in their best-of-five WNBA semifinal series, which starts Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena.