Sun get back to work against Mercury
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun were visibly annoyed following Sunday’s overtime loss at home to the Chicago Sky.
That the Sun were noticeably displeased was notable because they try to follow the sports credo of not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. Yet they were after failing to take advantage of their chances to beat the one team that’s had their number since last season.
The WNBA schedule doesn’t give teams much time to stew over things, though, and Connecticut gets back at it Tuesday when they host Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury for the first of two games between the teams over three days (7 p.m., Mohegan Sun Arena, NESN Plus).
The teams play again Thursday at the same site and time.
Connecticut seemed to catch a fortunate break when the Sky’s Candace Parker didn’t make the trip to Connecticut due to a non-COVID illness. The two-time WNBA MVP is the second-leading scorer for the defending champions (13.6 ppg), their leading rebounder (8.9 rpg) and averaging 4.5 assists, too.
Chicago opened Sunday’s game full-throttle as it led by as much as 17 points (38-21) with 6 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first half.
The Sun rallied and had the ball in the final seconds of regulation but couldn’t score. They went ahead 92-86 with 2:02 left in overtime but committed a shot clock violation and missed four shots on their final five possessions. The Sky came back and won, 95-92, to improve to 3-0 against Connecticut this season and earn the head-to-head playoff tiebreaker.
Chicago (23-7) has beaten the Sun in eight of 10 games since last season. That includes winning last year’s semifinal series in four games en route to winning its first championship.
Connecticut (20-10) also wasted an opportunity to solidify its playoff positioning, especially after the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics split their weekend series.
Chicago is first in the overall standings, followed by the Las Vegas Aces (22-8), the Sun, Seattle (19-12) and Washington (19-12). All five have qualified for the postseason with three more berths up for grabs.
The Aces hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Connecticut, which owns that tiebreaker over both Seattle and Washington. And although the top seeded teams won’t receive byes like they did in previous years, it’s still advantageous to be a top three seed. Better to face an opponent with a losing record instead of opening the playoffs in the best-of-three series between the No. 4 and 5 seeds.
The Sun have six games left in the regular season. Their magic number to clinch a top three seed is four.
Phoenix (13-17) is seventh in the overall standings and has endured a season that has gone wildly awry. The Mercury lost in last year’s WNBA Finals and looked like one of the favorites to win it this year after signing Tina Charles on Feb. 4, adding her to an already loaded starting lineup featuring fellow Olympians Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Taurasi.
Things began unraveling for the Phoenix later that month, starting with Griner’s arrest in Russia. The losses piled up to begin this season with Charles demanding her way off of the team to go elsewhere, resulting in the Mercury releasing her on June 29 in what they termed a “contract divorce” and receiving no compensation for her departure.
Charles signed days later with Seattle.
Phoenix still has one of the league’s best duos in Diggins-Smith and Taurasi. The former is third overall in points per game (20) with 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Taurasi is ninth in scoring (17.3 ppg) with 4 apg.
• The Sun continue to support Griner by accepting donations for BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. Fans may donate new or gently worn shoes as well as necessities for unhoused people, such as toiletry products, at Tuesday and Thursday’s games. Connecticut will also hold a 50-50 raffle. Go to www.connecticutsun.com for additional information or to purchase tickets.