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Sun players show some resolve in grinding out another win

Mohegan — It's a curious thing sometimes, this sports watching thing. We all have our teams. And if we watch them long enough, we can convince ourselves they'll never win another game, see all the warts before the glamor and watch games believing even the smallest ice cube will become the inevitable Titanic-sinker.

And so it is with the Connecticut Sun, the team with the best record in the WNBA at the moment, owners of a six-game win streak. You see the bouts with shooting disorders and occasionally handling the ball like an active lava rock. And you wonder sometimes how they'll possibly win another game.

There were moments Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena when the Sun coughed and wheezed their way along against Phoenix, which came east without injured Diana Taurasi. The Mercury, who have eliminated the Sun in the last two postseasons, even played the second half without Britney Griner, who tweaked an ankle in the first half.

The bedeviled Sun players, aggravated they were once 8-for-33 from the field — and totally vexed at how Phoenix actually went nearly 18 minutes without being whistled for a foul — were case studies in frustration management.

"I felt like there was a toughness to get to the finish line in the second half," Sun coach Curt Miller said, after his team's indomitable 68-62 win. "I thought the frustration showed body language-wise in the first half. I thought that the frustration had them looking at officials and at each other. We talked about body language thing at halftime. It's going to be one of those nights. A gritty night. Throughout this year we're able to win some games when we don't have our 'A' game."

About the body language thing: It's hard to prance around like a Rockette when your opponent hasn't been called for a foul in 18 minutes. Think about that. Perhaps some enterprising chap at Elias Sports Bureau could see if that's a WNBA record.

"I know," Sun guard Jasmine Thomas was saying about the P.W.D. (Phoenix Whistle Drought). "I was telling the refs."

Miller: "The game is tremendously physical. From my standpoint, more physical than it's ever been. And it's not changing. But when you're not having a real efficient, pretty game, it magnifies how the game is being called. Especially in the first half, I thought we got caught up into that. I thought we were more worried about officiating in the first half."

Maybe that's what made this such an uplifting win. In hideousness, there is beauty. In absurdity, there is clarity. Not that any game follows a script, but this was, as Ozzy would say, off the rails on the crazy train. No fouls in 18 minutes? At one point, the teams had combined for 32 field goals and 30 turnovers.

Ah, but the Connecticut players eventually figured it out, while Miller stayed calmer than a lagoon most of the night. Not easy.

"I usually exaggerate and tell the officials it's like that every night," he said, alluding to the foul discrepancy. "Some nights, I'm crazy on the sidelines and the players are calm. Tonight, I was at peace the entire night. Truly at peace."

It was here in the postgame press conference that team vice president Amber Cox chimed in from the gallery, "I wasn't."

(Group chuckle).

Miller continued, "I felt like the team was more frustrated. Most the time, it's the reverse. I'm frantic and they're like 'calm the hell down.'"

They'll need the maturity for the rest of this month. Lots of games, not much time off. They're not back in Neon Uncasville until Aug. 16. Now comes a four-game road trip that features games in Phoenix (with Taurasi back) and Vegas (arguably the best team in the league).

"We've got to lean on each other. Stay together for that energy and that support," Thomas said. "Just because you might not see what you want to see, doesn't mean we're rattled. Some of that composure is shown through our experience."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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