Sun need to cut down their mistakes in rematch against Sparks
The Connecticut Sun had little time to prepare for Thursday night's WNBA second-round, single-elimination game against the Los Angeles Sparks having played in Tuesday's first round.
Preparation or no preparation, Connecticut could condense its scouting report to one simple thing — limit turnovers.
The Sun had a season-high 23 the last time they played Los Angeles. They can't afford to give away the ball, and so many points, if they want to advance to semifinals.
The teams face off at 9 p.m. at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (ESPN2).
"(The Sparks) are number one in the league in getting points off turnovers (19 ppg)," Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. "They're number one in creating turnovers per possessions. ... They're just having a great year turning you over. Their defense spurs their offense."
The seventh-seeded Sun had to wait until late Tuesday to find out their second-round opponent because it was being decided by the night's other first-round game, the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury vs. the No. 8 Washington Mystics.
For those that missed it, Phoenix reserve Shey Peddy, who was waived by Washington last month, made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mercury an 85-84 win.
The result meant Connecticut, as the lowest remaining seed, would play the higher of the two teams that received a first-round bye, the third-seeded Sparks.
"An exciting finish as the coaching staff watched (the game) together to figure out who we were playing," Miller said with a smile during Tuesday's Zoom press conference.
Los Angeles beat the Sun in two competitive games during the regular season, 81-76 (July 30), and 80-76 (Aug. 28).
The second meeting was Connecticut's sloppiest game of the season. Its 23 turnovers led to 27 points for the Sparks. That included a stretch during the final 2 minutes, 7 seconds in which the Sun were called for offensive fouls on three straight possessions, which angered them greatly.
"They're an overhelp (defensive) team," Miller said. "We have to share the ball to the backside, which means for us to move the ball from side-to-side and not necessarily get stuck in one action. We've got to share the ball. We've got to handle the ball pressure. We've got to handle their wings that can jump through passing lanes."
Los Angeles' Candace Parker, one of six players to win multiple WNBA MVP awards over the league's 23-year history (2008, 2013), was named the Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year winner Tuesday, as chosen by a 16-person media panel.
The Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, has been named to the WNBA All-Defensive Team the last five seasons.
"Last game, those turnovers were magnified," Miller said. "We had a bunch of charges in the fourth quarter. We had illegal screens. That's all due to their ball pressure. That's all due to their overall getting us sped up."
This will be the second straight game in which the Sun face one of the world's best point guards. They played against Courtney Vandersloot in Tuesday's 94-81 win over the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky.
Thursday, Connecticut has to deal with Chelsea Gray. She scored 15 of her game-high 27 points in the second half of the Sparks' win on Aug. 28.
"Both are great point guards," Sun point guard Briann January said. "The only difference is, I think, (Gray) has a lot more size, and I think you saw in our game last time (that) she took Jas (fellow guard Jasmine Thomas) and I down in the post a little bit."
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The Connecticut Sun's offense went cold in the second half and were beaten by the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night, 66-63, to win their WNBA semifinal series.
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