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    Thursday, December 01, 2022

    Sun, getting a lift from newcomer Odyssey Sims, close regular season with a win

    Connecticut Sun guard Odyssey Sims (1) defends Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers (3) in WNBA action Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun guard Odyssey Sims (1) drives to the basket against the defense of Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers (3) in WNBA action Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mohegan Tribal elder Beth Regan, left, presents Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles with a retirement gift prior to the game against the Connecticut Sun in WNBA action Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fowles played the final game of her storied career as the Sun eliminated the Lynx from playoff contention with the 90-83 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) beats Minnesota Lynx forward Natalie Achonwa (11) to the rebound in WNBA action Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller embraces Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (34) after the game Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fowles played the final game of her career as the Sun eliminated the Lynx from playoff contention with the 90-83 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) applauds as Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (34) embraces teammate Natalie Achonwa (11) as Fowles leaves the game in the closing minute of WNBA action Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fowles played her final game as the Sun eliminated the Lynx from playoff contention with the 90-83 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mohegan — Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller warned ahead of time Sunday that this game could be “awkward,” with the Sun not having anything to lose or gain in their regular-season finale, the No. 3 seed in the upcoming WNBA playoffs already secure.

    That proved to be prophetic, as the Sun defeated the Minnesota Lynx 90-83 to eliminate the Lynx from playoff contention in what was the final career game for one of the league’s all-time greats in Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles.

    With Minnesota rallying within four late against the Connecticut bench, Miller put all five starters back in the game with 3 minutes, 43 seconds to play — per their request, he said later — to secure the win.

    A scuffle and a double technical assessed to Minnesota’s Aerial Powers and Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner ensued.

    Among the things that are not awkward for Miller’s team, however, is the addition of league veteran Odyssey Sims, who signed a seven-day contract on Aug. 3, extended to a rest of season contract on Aug. 10.

    Sims was comfortable enough to take the microphone to address the 7,489 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena following Sunday’s game after the Sun finished the regular season 25-11, going 11-3 since the All-Star break.

    “I mean, I’m a vet, I learn fast,” Sims said Sunday of her comfort level with the team as it heads into a best-of-three playoff series with Dallas beginning Thursday. “I had to learn fast. Just getting here, I know I have a big role on this team, now and going into the playoffs.

    “I’m just doing what coach is asking me and staying ready. I don’t have anything to prove. It’s not about anybody else. I know what I can do and coach does too, that’s why he picked me up. I’m just blessed and thankful to be here to have another opportunity and I’m on a winning team.”

    Sims, a 5-foot-8 guard who won a national championship while playing at Baylor, was drafted with the second overall pick in 2014 by the Tulsa Shock and has played in the league for eight seasons. She was a WNBA all-star in 2019.

    Earlier this season, Sims signed with Minnesota and appeared in two games before a mutual separation with the Lynx.

    The 30-year-old Sims finished Sunday’s game with four points and four assists in 21 minutes and has averaged 5.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 18.2 minutes per game with the Sun.

    “Without question she has been a huge addition,” Miller said. “It gives us a two-way player. She’s been able to really guard the basketball off the bench for us in multiple positions; she’s a really, really good ball defender.

    “At the same time she’s a downhill offensive player. We have a lot of pull-up jump shooters in our lineup ... now you have another guard that’s in attack mode that can get to the rim at times.”

    Sims comes off the bench for the Sun along with All-Star Brionna Jones and DiJonai Carrington, giving Connecticut a number of valuable pieces as it enters the playoffs.

    Miller said Sims’ value as a WNBA veteran is not to be discounted.

    “There’s something so comforting with the rest of our team to have a veteran out there that really understands this league, that’s not intimidated out there, that goes and competes her tail off.”

    Miller said without much practice time, Sims has had to learn on the fly.

    She credits her Sun teammates for helping her adjust.

    “I can always lean on them to tell me where to go or what to do. I always ask. I’m grateful just to have teammates that are willing to help me and not be frustrated because I don’t know. I just got here a week or so ago,” Sims said.

    “... This team is fun. It’s by far the funnest team I’ve ever been on, on and off the court. We’re always together. Nobody cares about who gets the credit on the court. We play for each other. We share the ball. Like coach said, the ball finds energy. Everybody’s so nice. Everybody’s so genuine. It couldn’t have been a better fit for me.”

    Alyssa Thomas finished with 16 points and seven rebounds for Connecticut and Natisha Hiedeman and Brionna Jones had 15 points each, with Hiedeman sinking four 3-point field goals. Jonquel Jones had 12 points and Courtney Williams 10.

    Lindsay Allen had 26 points for Minnesota (14-22), including six 3-pointers, keeping the Lynx within reach of the Sun, who threatened to pull away with a 75-56 lead in the fourth quarter. Powers had 22 points.

    Fowles, an eight time All-Star and two-time WNBA champion who is retiring after 15 seasons, finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for her league-leading 192nd career double-double. During the game, she also became the only player in league history to eclipse 4,000 career rebounds.

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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