The Connecticut Sun remain atop the Eastern Conference, but they sure didn't look like a first-place team in losing to the lowly Phoenix Mercury at home last week.
The Sun could display a new-look offense in Wednesday night's rematch in Phoenix as they try to avenge that defeat and move closer to securing the East's top spot.
Connecticut (21-8) owns a 1 1/2-game lead over second-place Indiana with five to play, but probably feels it should have a larger advantage. The Sun got off to a sluggish start Friday and the Mercury (7-21) made them pay, racing out to a 19-point lead midway through the second quarter en route to a 91-82 victory.
The Sun, who lost for the first time in five meetings, were outrebounded 45-21 and allowed their second-highest point total of the season.
"The wheels aren't falling off," said Kara Lawson, who misfired on 8 of 10 shots and finished with eight points, "but this was disappointing."
Connecticut bounced back to beat Chicago 82-77 on Sunday, as Tina Charles had 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting while Lawson tied a career high with nine assists.
In an attempt to provide a spark following the loss to the Mercury, the Sun mixed things up, using a four-guard lineup in some key moments down the stretch. They practiced the scheme during the Olympic break when star center Charles and power forward Asjha Jones were in London playing for the United States.
"We still have a lot to play for," Lawson said. "Just because we have clinched a playoff spot doesn't mean that we can relax. The whole goal of this is to be playing as well as you can be playing entering the postseason. That's what we need to do."
Reserve guard Renee Montgomery was at her best against the Mercury last week, finishing with a season-high 25 points, but Connecticut's starters combined for just 35 on 35.7 percent shooting.
DeWanna Bonner had 35 points on her own and Phoenix's starters made 25 of 50 shots. Diana Taurasi scored 16 points in 18 minutes while Krystal Thomas had 16 rebounds compared to only three by Charles, the WNBA's leading rebounder.
Mercury rookie point guard Samantha Prahalis, who averages 11.7 points and a team-best 4.3 assists, didn't play because of a shoulder injury sustained two days earlier and her status for the rematch is uncertain.
The Mercury followed up that big win with an 89-83 loss to Indiana on Sunday to complete a 1-2 road trip. Bonner had a team-high 23 points.
"Coming off a long road trip, still feel like we played well," said Bonner, who is second in the league in scoring at 20.8 points per game.
Phoenix plays its next three games at home, but that isn't necessarily a good thing Wednesday.
The Mercury have one win in their last eight games in Phoenix, while the Sun are a league-best 11-3 on the road.