Sometimes bad things happen to good teams, like on Friday when the Connecticut Sun clanged away their chance to beat the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.
Nobody in the WNBA takes more shots a game then the Sun this season, but the point is making enough to win. That didn’t happen against the Lynx; the Sun shot just 32.5 percent. So the quest to recalibrate carried them into Sunday’s game against the Washington Mystics at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Led by Tina Charles, who scored 30 points with nine rebounds, and Kara Lawson, who scored 14 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Sun reset their navigation system and beat the Mystics, 94-86, at the casino on Girl Scout Day.
The fourth quarter was crazy. The Mystics (1-4), who had only 35 points in the first half, scored 36 points in quarter to push the Sun. Crystal Langhorne (23 points) and Jasmine Thomas (17 points) led them in scoring. Thomas had three three-pointers.
But the Sun countered with 35 of their own in the fourth [tying a franchise record for most points in a quarter] and were 19-of-20 from the foul line in the quarter, 26-of-31 in the game. The Sun came into the game shooting 82.4 percent from the line this season. The 60 second-half points are a franchise record for the half as were the 19 free throws in the fourth.
“I never talk to them about their free throw shooting, unless we have a particular individual who is struggling,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We shoot them, sometimes as part of practice, sometimes on their own. Our players are pretty good about getting in their own work from the line. They have their own routine. And they made 52.5 percent of their shots to improve to 4-1.
The Mystics have lost three straight and 18 of the last 21 at the casino since the Sun came into existence in 2003.
“Every conference win is a huge win for us,” said Thibault. “But Washington (1-4) is a pretty good team and they are going to make life miserable for a lot of teams this season.”
The Sun had a 69-60 lead with 6:17 to play after five straight points from Lawson, but a three from the left corner by Matee Ajavon with 2:01 to play pulled the Mystics within 78-75.
The Sun led by as many as eight (33-25) in the first half and for that they could thank Charles. She scored 18 in the half, including 10 of the 11 the Sun scored in the second quarter. But without much help, Connecticut wasn’t able to hold on.
The Mystics outscored the Sun 10-1 over the last 2:42 of the half to take a 35-34 lead. Thomas, the former Duke guard, drained a three with 16.9 seconds to play in the half to give Washington its first lead since 8-6. Charles was 8-of-14 from the floor in the half. Her teammates combined to shoot 6-of-22 and no one had more than four points (Kelsey Griffin).
“Tina had an incredible offensive game, but we had other people chip in, too,” Thibault said.
The third quarter was Connecticut’s. It scored 11 of the first 13 points and soon have a 56-43 lead after Ashja Jones dropped a three.
“Our offensive brain finally turned on in the third quarter,” Thibault said. “We started getting the ball to players who were actually hot.”
Charles took a third of Connecticut’s shots (22 of 61) and made 13 field goals.
“We want to feature her offensive and we want to take a look early at how teams plan to play her,” Lawson said of Charles. “You know, will they double her early or double her late? I mean, I am not a coach, but the fact that Tina continues to get a lot of single coverage seems baffling to me. If they [defenses] keep doing that, then Tina will keep doing what she is going.”
Charles missed her 49th career double-double by the one rebound. The team record is 50 set by Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
“I worked harder on the offensive end tonight [then Friday when she was 8-of-15],” Charles said. “My teammates found me.”
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