Sunday should have been a day the Connecticut Sun took a breather before the start of the playoffs Thursday against New York. But even with the first seed in the East tightly wrapped, the Sun still had some important business to attend to against the Atlanta Dream.
Thanks to the Sun’s 92-72 win over the Dream, they end the regular season 25-9 – good enough for home court advantage against three of the four teams it could meet in the league finals. Only Minnesota, the defending champion, will have the edge now.
Kara Lawson led the Sun with 21 points, ending the greatest regular season of her 10-year career. She had three three-pointers, setting the franchise single-season record with 74.
That means Lawson has already earned $11,100 for Pat Summitt’s Alzheimer’s Foundation. Lawson, the Sun and the Mohegan Sun Arena pledged $50 each for every three she made this season.
Tina Charles, who sat out the entire fourth quarter, added 17 points and nine rebounds to wrap up the team’s scoring lead and the league’s rebounding title for the third straight season.
The Sun was in control from the start, opening a 14-4 lead with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter. They led 18-8 after hitting 9-of-22 and holding the Dream to 3-of-19 from the floor.
Connecticut increased its lead to 26-12 in the second and led 36-24 at the half, Charles leading the way with eight points and eight rebounds.
The Dream (19-15), the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion, opens the playoffs Friday at home against Indiana. Lindsey Harding led five players in double figures with 16. Angel McCoughtry scored 12, enough to wrap up the WNBA scoring title (21.4)
Had the Sun lost, Connecticut would have lost home court in a potential final against Minnesota (27-7) and Los Angeles. The Sun hasn’t played for the WNBA championship since 2005 when they lost to the defunct Sacramento Monarchs.
That could be a big deal against the Sparks, who not only won both games against Connecticut this season, but tied the Lynx for the best home record (16-1) in the league. The Sun are the league’s best road team (13-4).
Charles needed eight rebounds Sunday to outlast Fowles, who averaged 10.4 in 25 games.
Charles also (18.0) also broke her own single-season scoring record by finishing the season with 594 points. She set the record at 17.6 last season.
And Lawson won the free throw shooting title among players with at least 100 tries. Lawson was (93. 4 percent, 100- of-107).
Now the Sun turn their attention to the ultimate goal, their first WNBA championship.
They won 4 of 5 from the Liberty (15-19) this season, although most of the games were hard fought. New York’s win came in the first game after the Olympic break, 79-66 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J, where they play their home games. Charles scored a season-low four points (1 of 7) in that game.
If things play out the way they did during the season, the Sun seem in good shape since they did not lose consecutive games all season.
But they are in somewhat of a precarious situation because of the injuries that now sideline Danielle McCray (sprained MCL) and continue to hamper Asjha Jones, Charles and Allie Hightower.
After returning to the lineup for the first time since July 11 with a cameo appearance (5 minutes) on Wednesday against Indiana, Jones increased her pitch count a little against the Dream.
“I woke up Thursday [after the Indiana game] feeling no worse than I have,” said Jones smiling.
Jones played 12 minutes and scored four points, shooting 2-of-5 from the floor.
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