The Connecticut Sun have 15 games remaining to recover from what literally ailed them during the first half of the WNBA season.
And that’s what they intend to do.
If nothing else, the idea they still have a lot of fight left emerged from their 74-72 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks Tuesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
After taking a quick 8-0 lead, the Sun ultimately trailed by 10 with just over four minutes to play before cutting the lead to one on two separate occasions.
“We just didn’t give up,” Allison Hightower said. “We just stayed after it, hustled for loose balls, tried to get after the boards, kept up our aggression and get to the free throw line. We also ran our sets a lot better, got Tina [Charles] some open looks and we were able to get back into the game.”
Still, there will always be times when the opponent stays a step ahead. And two big baskets and a free throw by All-Star Kristi Toliver in the final 96 seconds kept the Sun at arm’s length until Renee Montgomery’s final three-point attempt bounced off the iron at the buzzer.
“We were trying to get a look for Tina Charles [who led the Sun with 25 points], but the Sparks did a good job taking that away,” Donovan said. “Then we had Allie coming off one screen and Renee coming off another hoping one would get a good look.”
Beginning Friday against Chicago at the casino, the Sun start the most crucial part of their season. Of their remaining games, 11 will be against the conference rivals immediately ahead of them in the standings; six with Washington (three), Indiana (two) and New York.
The Sun (6-13) must pass two of three to make the playoffs as a fourth seed. And it seems like the Mystics (9-13) and Liberty (9-12) are the most vulnerable at this point.
Washington, who the Sun play Sunday at the Verizon Center, have lost seven of 10. The Liberty, who the Sun defeated last Saturday in Newark, have lost six of 10.
In reality, all the Sun need to do is tie for fourth and win the season series against that team. That will advance them thanks to the head-to-head tie breaker.
The Sun are 2-1 against the Fever and Liberty and 0-1 against the Mystics, who they have played just once this season.
“I like the direction we’re heading, I really do,” Renee Montgomery said. “Since the All-Star break I think we’ve come out with a different type of mindset and it shows on the court. If we keep up the hard work and keep moving in the right direction I feel we’ll be alright.”
Donovan attributes much of the improvement to getting both Montgomery and Tan White back. The guards missed virtually all of the first half with injuries.
“It’s as simple as that. We have more scorers and more options, especially for Tina to pass to off double-teams,” Donovan said.
And the Sun’s perimeter defense has not allowed a three-pointer in the last two games.
After winning her 10th WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, Charles recorded her third straight 20 point-10 rebound game and eighth of the season. She finished with 13 rebounds.
In her last five games, the All-Star center and reigning MVP has averaged 20.0 points and 13.4 rebounds. She also seems encouraged about what’s been happening around her lately.
“Ever since the Sun drafted me [in 2010], the teammates I’ve had always stay in every game and make a great effort to come back,” Charles said.
Still, any comeback the Sun make will be done, at least for now, without Kara Lawson. Already sidelined with a bone bruise, she has been granted an indefinite leave of absence to attend to a unspecified family matter.