Connecticut overtakes Minnesota in 96-79 win.
UNCASVILLE– The Connecticut Sun did their part in securing a home playoff game by defeating the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, 96-79.
Jonquel Jones led all scorers with 26 points, followed closely by reigning WNBA MVP Slyvia Fowles (25 points). The win, coupled with the other results of yesterday, mean the Connecticut Sun will host their second playoff game under head coach Curt Miller on either August 21 or August 23. For Miller, the win against the Minnesota Lynx is another step in the right direction he has for his (re)developing team.
Last night’s win over the Minnesota Lynx was a huge coup for the Connecticut Sun. Minnesota has struggled to be the modern-day dynasty WNBA fans know and love–or love to hate. However, Miller and his team had their hands full in the first half.
The Lynx battled through five lead changes and six ties to earn a 46-43 lead at halftime. Reigning MVP Slyvia Fowles led all scorers with 16 points and was perfect from the floor. Maya Moore added 10 points of her own.
However, the Sun buckled down in the third, offensively and defensively. The Sun opened the second half with a 13-4 run at the hot hands of Alyssa Thomas (18 points) and Jonquel Jones (26 points). “All these games down the stretch mean a lot to us,” Jones told High Post Hoops after the game. The Sun are 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Jones added, “When we play against [Minnesota] we really respect them as veterans and as a team … we also know that we can do a lot of stuff against them and so we’re just we’re excited when we play against them.”
Changing tides in Minnesota
With yesterday’s loss, the Lynx drop to 17-16 and have lost six of their last 10 contests. This season has been a lot about transitioning for the Lynx. Coach Cheryl Reeve has worked hard to manage injuries, rest, and work around the fitness levels of her core players. “It’s been well documented I sort of talked [Lindsay Whalen] into playing,” Reeve told High Post Hoops prior to tip-off on Friday. “She was in a place where she’d have been okay leaving the game.”
Replacing Whalen’s minutes has been difficult down the final stretch. Whalen split time with Danielle Robinson for most of the season, but the Lynx lost her to an ankle injury August 9. For the last three games, Tanisha Wright has stepped into the starting guard role. Wright is a 12-year WNBA veteran herself who took of the 2017 season to rest her body.
With one game left in the regular season, Reeve, like every other coach during this condensed 2018 season, is running out of time to make adjustments ahead of the playoffs. “We’re trying to accomplish a lot today becoming a better basketball team today is first and foremost,” Reeve said ahead of yesterday’s loss.
A lot of that will mean putting her team to the test down the wire in the hopes that she and the team are prepared for any scenario in a one-game elimination playoff game come next week. “I want to know all the information right now so we can go into a game understanding exactly what we’re getting from who and when. So that’s a big thing for us today.”
See the standard, beat the standard
Adding to the excitement of the win for Connecticut is the fact that the Lynx intentionally modeled their franchise after coach Cheryl Reeve and the Minnesota Lynx. Prior to the Curt Miller era, the Connecticut Sun took the league by storm behind players like Tina Charles, Katie Douglas, and soon-to-be-retired Lindsay Whalen.
Before last season, the Sun hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2011. For Miller, the success of his team against Minnesota throughout the season is promising.
"“We’re now 6-3 in the regular season against them. [That’s] the best regular season [record] of any team in the league against them. So if you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best and we modeled ourselves after trying to create a championship culture and a championship team in the shadow and in the likes of Minnesota. So we have a great deal of respect. But we’re proud of. What we’ve done against them in the regular season over three years. And. You know. It’s all a process.”"
With one regular season game left, the Sun will eventually prepare for the next step in embodying Lynx basketball; a championship. That doesn’t come without a deep playoff run.
“One of the things that I prided myself on at the collegiate level is not just building programs with building sustaining success,” Miller said.
With the win over the Lynx, Miller has led the Sun to a second consecutive 20-win season. He has tied the mark left by Mike Thibault twice (2005-06; 2011-12). While that is a step in the right directions, it alone is not enough for a title.
“[Last year] we advance to the second round, but we technically didn’t win a playoff game … the next progression is advancing in the playoffs,” Miller said. “You can’t talk about semifinals and finals series’ until you can advance through the first or second round.”
The Sun will host the Los Angeles Sparks for their final home game of the season Sunday at 3:00 pm EST. But thanks to Friday’s win, they guaranteed it won’t be their last home game of the year.