Nobody thinks the Sun can win, you know

Mohegan — One of the great all-time sports lines came from the sagely Bill Parcells, who was quoted rather famously on NFL Films in 1990, the year winning the Super Bowl for the football Giants meant doing so without an injured Phil Simms.

"Nobody thinks you can win, you know," he said to Carl Banks on the sidelines, just after the Giants beat the Bears in the playoffs and were headed to San Francisco to play the defending champs in the NFC title game.

Nobody thinks you can win, you know.

It's a powerful narrative, through which coaches can get mileage that rivals a Toyota Camry.

Which brought us to Tuesday night, the WNBA semifinals in Neon Uncasville, a similar narrative facing the daughters of Sun.

Nobody thinks you can win, you know.

They were playing the Los Angeles Sparks, the team with more glitz, what with Candace Parker and the Ogwumikes, the team a few national media types have anointed into Gladys Knight playing against the Pips.

Ah, but the Pips represented themselves just fine in Game One, listening to their fans' request to "Beat L.A." The Sun, in a game occasionally measured by first downs, managed an 84-75 win, suggesting the underdogs have some gas in the tank after all.

Now some folks in the longest running women's professional sports league of them all think this whole "underdog Sun" thing is contrived. A media talking point. Besides, this isn't exactly a band of Jimmy Chitwoods here. Alyssa Thomas may be the most underrated women's player in the world. Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams aren't terrible, either. Shekinna Stricklen won the three-point contest at the all-star game.

But then, nobody would really take the Sun's roster over L.A.'s. The Sparks have two league MVPs (Parker and Nneka Ogwumike) and one of the best point guards in the game (Chelsea Gray). Their depth is sinful, given how Tuesday the Sun held starting guards Gray and Riquna Williams to a combined eight points, while Alana Beard and the immortal Sydney Wiese combined for 14 off the bench.

Still, though, Gladys Knight lost.

"Underdog? We're not embracing that," Sun guard Courtney Williams said. "We have a chip on our shoulder. It's not sitting well. I'm sure people in the media didn't think we'd win tonight."

Whoa. Shots fired.

Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas: "It's always nice to have something to talk about in the media. And that's fine with us. Sometimes, when you step on the floor, you have to send a message. If people aren't going to respect us, we have to go out and earn it."

This was a good Step One. And the Sun did so in front of 7,102 fans — a great crowd for a Tuesday night during school — underscoring the significance of playing three games in this series at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Heck, they even sold T-shirts with the word "disrespeCT" written on them (note how the "CT" part of disrespect is capitalized.) Whatever the reasons, the Sun won the biggest game for this franchise since the days of Mike Thibault, whose new team (Washington), ironically, is a potential opponent in the finals.

Nobody thinks you can win, you know.

It may be contrived. But rallying cries needn't be Shakespearean. Just effective. And this one is working.

It won't get easier. Game Two is Thursday night. This one was plenty contentious. Chiney Ogwumike got booed. Jonquel Jones and Sun coach Curt Miller had a notable disagreement on the bench in the third quarter. Nneka Ogwumike flattened Williams in an inbounds screen late in the fourth quarter and may have authored some foreshadowing for Thursday.

Hostile.

And gloriously entertaining.

The Little Team That Could has a chance to go up 2-0 by around 9 p.m. Thursday.

Nobody thinks they can win, you know.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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