Locked into the No. 2 seed for the WNBA playoffs, the Connecticut Sun have the option of resting their regulars in Sunday's finale against an Indiana Fever team trying to wrap up a season of progress on a positive note.
Any chance of the Sun (23-10) catching the Washington Mystics for the top spot evaporated with their 109-104 overtime home loss to Chicago on Friday night, coupled with the Mystics defeating the Dallas Wings. Courtney Williams scored 25 points and Shekinna Stricklen added 14 for Connecticut, which has a bye to the semifinals and avoids the two elimination rounds that led to its demise in each of the last two postseasons.
"We made some big plays to get into overtime, made some big plays to give us a chance to stay in that game even late," Sun coach Curt Miller told the Hartford Courant. "Proud of our grittiness, proud of what we did at home this year."
The loss cost Connecticut a chance at setting a franchise record with 16 home wins, settling for a tie with the 2011 team that went 15-2 at Mohegan Sun. With nothing at stake in terms of playoff positioning, Miller could use this game to give his backups some run. Connecticut's bench accounted for 25 points in Friday's loss as Bria Holmes scored 11 points and Natasha Hiedeman added eight while hitting 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
Though the Fever (12-21) will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, Pokey Chatman's team showed progress in doubling their season win total from 2018. Indiana also assured itself it would not have the best chance of winning the WNBA lottery for the second straight offseason after winning 86-81 at New York on Friday night.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points and Teaira McCowan, whom the Fever selected with the No. 3 overall pick after failing to win the lottery, chipped in 14 and 13 rebounds for her fifth consecutive double-double. The center from Mississippi State has averaged 19.2 points and 14.0 rebounds in that stretch while shooting 50.8 percent (33 for 65).
"We have one more game left, so we're going to focus on that one and finishing strong for our fans," Fever center Natalie Achonwa told The Associated Press. "The positive is doubling the wins. We only had six last year and we have an upward trend. We lost a lot of games by less than 10 points and five points. Definitely growth, but we know we can be better next year."
Connecticut is trying to sweep the season series for the second straight year and has won seven straight between the teams after recording a 76-63 road win July 14 in which Jonquel Jones had 16 points, eight rebounds, and three steals.