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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Sun can close out first-round WNBA playoff series with Lynx in Game 2 on Sunday at home

    Connecticut’s Rebecca Allen (9) and Tiffany Hayes (15) combined for nine 3-pointers during the Sun’s 90-60 win over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 1 of their WNBA first-round playoff series. Game 2 is Sunday at 1 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day via AP)
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    Mohegan — Usually it’s the losing team that needs to have a short-term memory. This time it was the winning team, the Connecticut Sun, which defeated the Minnesota Lynx 90-60 in Game 1 of a WNBA first-round playoff series, that suggested as much.

    “I mean, it’s an awesome way to start and now to let this one go and do it again,” Connecticut’s Bec Allen said. “For us, the biggest thing, as they say in the room, is have a short-term memory. Great job in getting this win and winning the way we did, but let’s do it again.”

    The third-seeded Sun and No. 6 Lynx are scheduled for Game 2 of the best-of-three series at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena (ESPN).

    With a victory, the Sun will advance to the WNBA semifinals for the fifth straight season, meeting either the No. 2 New York Liberty or No. 7 Washington Mystics. Connecticut reached the WNBA Finals last season before falling to the Las Vegas Aces.

    The Sun had five players in double figures in Wednesday’s series opener against Minnesota and knocked down 16 3-point field goals, a franchise record for most 3s in a playoff game. Allen had five 3-pointers, Tiffany Hayes four, Ty Harris three and DeWanna Bonner and Natisha Hiedeman two each.

    Connecticut’s defense was also formidable, as the Sun scored 30 points off 19 Lynx turnovers.

    Bonner led the Sun with 17 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, while Alyssa Thomas had 15 points, 10 assists and five steals. Allen had 15 points, six rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks.

    “It’s a huge confidence-booster,” Allen said of the Game 1 rout. “It’s nice to see the ball going through the net for a number of us, so we can just build that confidence into the next game.

    “But in playoff basketball, it’s always a new game, so you need to come ready and they’re going to make some changes and we’re going to do what we’re going to do. We just need to be ready and stay true to who we are.”

    Lynx veteran coach Cheryl Reeve wasn’t certain why Minnesota seemed so off guard against the Sun’s aggressive defense or why the Lynx watched as the Sun drained so many 3-pointers.

    She saw her team go 0-6 to start the season, then bounce back to make a playoff run, so she believes the Lynx will have an answer in Game 2.

    “We’ve had hard times. We’ve gotten smacked before,” Reeve said. “This team always gets up. We’re not going to not get up. We have to figure out some things.

    “Most of what we saw was not a surprise to us. For some reason our execution was really, at both ends, just not where it needs to be to win a playoff game, especially against these guys. I don’t know, I can’t speak to why we just didn’t look like we were ready to go into another gear. Do we have another gear? We’re going to find that out about ourselves.”

    The Sun were 3-1 against Minnesota during the regular season, winning twice in Minnesota, 89-84 (June 1) and 89-68 (June 22) before splitting a series at Mohegan Sun on July 30 and Aug. 1. The Lynx won the first of those two games 87-83 before Connecticut rallied with a 79-69 victory.

    Reeve said that two-game set was a good preview for what a playoff series is like, facing the same opponent in consecutive games with an opportunity to change things up.

    “In our minds it’s a 120-minute series,” Reeve said. “The first 40 minutes didn’t go very well. The highs are high in a playoff series. The lows are low. We’re low and Connecticut is high and so that’s the beauty of a series, the ups and the downs.

    “We’re on to the next 40 minutes. That’s our mindset. We have to see if we can be better.”

    Connecticut head coach Stephanie White, meanwhile, called it the closest the Sun have gotten this season to a consistent 40 minutes, especially the defense.

    The Sun led the WNBA this season in points allowed by an opponent with 79.0 per game.

    “Really incredibly proud of our defensive effort and execution,” said White, in her first season in Connecticut and recently named the Associated Press WNBA Coach of the Year. “I thought from top to bottom and from start to finish we were really good in that area.”


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