Sun celebrate the past, look to the future as they defeat Fever 73-67
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Sun celebrated ten years of WNBA basketball in the state of Connecticut with the pre-game announcement of the team’s All-Decade team selections. Then came the tipoff, and the Sun looked toward the future and a possible second round playoff series against their opponent, by dispatching the Indiana Fever 73-67.
Perhaps the most important part of both was veteran power forward Asjha Jones, who was an easy choice as an All-Decade team selection, and returned to the court for the Sun in a playing role for the first time since the Olympic break. Despite their success, the Sun will need Jones in the postseason, and her 2-2 shooting for four points and one rebound in five minutes was a welcome sight.
“It was great to see Asjha back in there,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said postgame. Asked why Jones was not inserted in the second half, Thibault said “she was a little sore at halftime” and they thought it best not to push it.
Jones is joined on the All-Decade team by current Sun members Tina Charles, Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery and Tan White, and former Sun players Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Lindsay Whalen, Katie Douglas, Nykesha Sales, and the late Margo Dydek.
Now a member of the Fever, Douglas was honored to be recognized for her achievements with the Sun.
“It means an awful lot,” said Douglas. “I was here for five years and put in a tremendous amount of work and we had a lot of success. I know we fell short two times and for the fans of Connecticut to recognize me and be part of such a quality group of ladies on that team it means a lot and I am honored and humbled.”
The game itself did not have much significance for either team, with the prime focus for both on staying healthy and getting sharp for the playoffs. The Sun are trying to achieve the second best record in the league and home court advantage throughout the playoffs except against Minnesota, so that gave them some additional motivation.
Indiana played the game with only three of their regular starters, as Briann January and Shavonte Zellous rested due to concussion symptoms and were not with the team. In their place the Fever started Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen, who combined only hit 3-of-11 shots. The Fever as a team shot 35.7 percent for the game, and, despite forcing the Sun into 17 turnovers, trailed virtually the entire time the starters for both teams were on the court.
Douglas led the Fever with 19 points, and broke the Fever season record for three-pointers made. She also reached the 1,000 assist mark for her career. Catchings scored 15, and they were the only members of the Fever in double figures.
The Sun were sizzling from the field for the first three quarters of the game, hitting 60 percent of their shots. A lackluster fourth quarter (4-for-19 shooting) let the Fever reduce the lead to a two possession game before the Sun iced it.
Fans entering the arena were given “Tina Charles MVP” cards to wave, and Charles, playing the 100th game of her career, gave them plenty of reason to. She dominated inside, scoring 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds, her 18th double-double of the season.
With her 12 rebounds, Charles becomes the fastest player in WNBA history to reach 1,100 career rebounds, doing it in four games less than Yolanda Griffith had previously.
Lawson celebrated her All-Decade award by hitting four more three-pointers, and has 71 for the season now, two behind Douglas’ Sun record. She added six assists to her 23 points. Allison Hightower was also in double figures for the Sun, scoring 10 points.
After three quarters Fever coach Lin Dunn saw what she had to, and despite trailing by 13, rested Douglas, Tamika Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown for the remainder of the game.
“One of the things we wanted to do was compete,” said Dunn. “We were not going to come in here and lay down and die and we were also going to give our backups some quality minutes and I thought that is exactly what we did. A couple of rebounds here, a couple of box outs there, a couple of missed shots and maybe we still would have won.”
Indiana, 20-12 on the season, closes the season with two games against the teams with losing records, the Washington Mystics on Friday and the Tulsa Shock on Sunday. The Mystics have the worst record in the league, 5-27.
Connecticut, 24-9, will finish their regular season on Sunday versus Atlanta, the Fever’s first round opponent in the playoffs.
Dunn hopes these teams will play at least two more times this season, in the Eastern conference finals.
“I certainly hope to. I know we a tough match up with Atlanta first and they are probably going to have a touch match up with New York. We would love to be playing Connecticut in the Finals”
After the Sun’s weak fourth quarter though, Lawson is looking forward to Sunday first.
“Sunday is another opportunity for us to build some momentum, to string together some good possessions,” said Lawson. “There is a type of flow that you want to be in. Atlanta always comes in and they play a playoff type style and that’s why they’ve made the finals the last two years, so that should be a really good test for us as we move into the playoffs.”