Kelsey Griffin, the former Nebraska All-American in her fourth season, was not happy after Sunday’s 76-66 loss to the New York Liberty, a franchise record 19th of the season.
Here is why: The juxtaposition of the Sun is startling. They’ve nosedived from one win away from the WNBA Finals in 2012 to the worst record in the league this season.
“You can’t take any game you’re given in this league for granted,” said Griffin, who led the Sun with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. “There are a lot of players that want to be playing in this league, and can’t, and aren’t, and I feel very privileged to be in this league.
“I go out and try to play every night with that respect for the game. I’m trying to carry that through until the end of the season.”
No longer are the constant stream of injuries the team has suffered the convenient crutch. In fact, there might have been only one person in the organization more bothered that Griffin on Sunday.
And that was Sun coach Anne Donovan.
Not usually demonstrative, Donovan did not waste words when asked to evaluate her team’s effort as it heads to the backstretch.
“It’s a great question, one that that locker room needs to answer,” Donovan said. “At this point, you approach every game, regardless of whether you will be in the postseason or not with an element of pride to your game, especially in this arena.
“People don’t just come in here [the Mohegan Sun Arena] and score at will. And [Sunday], we did a marginal job on Cappie [Pondexter]. She walked out of here with 14 points, that’s pretty good when you can hold Cappie to 14. But to have their bench just have a field day against us.”
The Liberty’s bench scored 24 points, shooting 10-of-12. Connecticut’s bench scored four points, shooting 1-of-11.
The inconsistency has quickly added up to a bleak outlook for the final eight games, which begin Tuesday in Los Angeles. The Sun play in Seattle [Thursday] and Seattle [Saturday] before coming home again.
The Sun sit 4 ½ games behind Indiana (12-15) for the final playoff spot. If Connecticut has anything going for it, it is the current 2-1 lead in the season series with the Fever. The teams have two more games to play.
Should the Sun tie Indiana for fourth, and win at least one of the final two meetings, they will make the playoffs. But that would involve a winning streak and the Sun, who have lost four straight and seven of eight, have won consecutive games just twice this season.
“It’s about pride,” Donovan said. “I don’t even entertain talk of postseason or not postseason. This is about pride.”
What’s certain is that Donovan and Chris Sienko, the general manager, will be using the final eight games to evaluate the roster headed into next season. Connecticut has a number of huge decisions to make about restricted and unrestricted free agents.
“You know, we are missing our defensive sparks at times, not having Ally [Hightower], not having Kelly Faris, who is coming into her own, that’s a huge loss for us,” Tina Charles said. “But we have others players that can play defense and are capable of stepping up and being consistent.
“You want to go out there and play for your teammates respect, for your coaches respect, just how you carry yourself off the court, how you carry yourself on the court. As long as I’m playing, I’m still going to do what I do and hold myself accountable, that’s all I can do.”