Sun need to remain strong in second half

The Connecticut Sun have been the stronger second-half team in both games of their WNBA semifinal series against the Los Angeles Sparks and taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Connecticut will have to be even stronger in order to clinch the series on the road against the prideful and, most likely, angry Sparks.

The Sun play Los Angeles on Sunday night in Game 3 of their best-of-five series at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State (7, ESPN2).

The game was moved from the Staples Center due to the Emmy Awards being held across the street from the arena at the Microsoft Theatre. Game 4, if necessary, will be at Staples on Tuesday.

The Sparks led at halftime of Game 1 (40-37). They were also ahead 26-15 less than two minutes into the second quarter of Game 2.

Connecticut has shot a combined 51.4 percent in the second half of both games, the Sparks 36.6.

“We have struggled to have a first-quarter lead on the road in quite some time and so we were definitely pleased with the start,” Los Angeles coach Derek Fisher said after Game 2. “Over time, we're not able to sustain the fight, the intensity, the energy that it takes to win these type of games on the road. You have to give (the Sun) credit for how hard they continued to play.”

Courtney Williams made a go-ahead 3-pointer to give Connecticut a 48-46 lead with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third quarter of Game 2. It also began a 19-5 Sun run.

The Sun nearly doubled-up the Sparks in the second half of Game 2, 53-28.

“We just brought a different type of energy,” Williams said after Game 2. “(Los Angeles) came out (in the first half) and they hit us in our mouth, you know? And I think we had to come out and withstand that run, stay mentally strong.

“We know that basketball is a game of runs. So we went on our run and put our foot on the gas.”

Perhaps the Sparks were tired. They played Sunday afternoon at home, flew across the country after the game and arrived in Connecticut early Monday. Thursday was their third game in five days.

L.A.'s Candace Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP, struggled throughout Game 2 and made just 1 of 3 shots in 26 minutes and scored three points.

“Once they made that (third-quarter) run, they kept pushing and we didn’t respond properly,” L.A.'s Nneka Ogwumike said after Game 2. “We didn’t maintain our composure and you can’t do that against teams like that. They were able to push the ball down the court every time and we were not able to respond because they were disrupting us in a way that we were not getting shots in flow, (and) missing those shots caused us to be in transition (defense) most of the third quarter.”

The Sun’s defense deserves credit for some of the Sparks’ woes. They also had the benefit of a week off thanks to earning a double-bye to the semis. They’re also younger, although their core five — Williams, Jonquel Jones, Shekinna Stricklen, Williams, Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas — has played together for over three-and-a-half seasons, longer than any semifinalist.

“I thought their energy continued to build after we got off to the good start,” Fisher said. “Their energy increased and ours slowly dipped.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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