Playoff seeds still on the line as Mercury hosts Sun (Aug 31, 2017)

BY AP • August 31, 2017

The Connecticut Sun and the Phoenix Mercury have secured spots in the upcoming WNBA playoffs, but seeding in the postseason will still be in play when the two teams square off Friday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

But both teams have adopted versions of the same just-win-and-then-see-what-happens mentality for the stretch run.

The Sun can finish as high as third with wins in its final two games but no lower than fourth even if it loses Friday against Phoenix and Sunday at Los Angeles.

There is no scenario where Connecticut can fall further than fourth or rise higher that the third seed. Both the third and fourth seeds earn first-round playoff byes and will host the winners of the 5 vs. 8 and 6 vs. 7 games.

The Sun clinched one of the top four berths in the playoffs with an 86-76 victory over Washington on Tuesday night in the nation's capital.

Connecticut (21-11) received a career-high 22 rebounds from center Jonquel Jones and a career-high 26 points from Alyssa Thomas to pull away from the Mystics (17-15). Jasmine Thomas scored 20 points for the Sun while Jones added 14. Shekinna Stricken had 12 points after sinking four 3-point shots. The Sun were 10-of-20 from the floor from 3-point range.

Jones is only the second player in WNBA history to pull down at least 20 rebounds in three games in one season. The only other player was Tina Charles, who now plays for New York, when she pulled down a league record 384 rebounds during her 2010 rookie season with Connecticut.

"It was a very physical game -- it took a playoff feel and intensity and winning this game was important for us," Sun general manager and coach Curt Miller said. "I'm proud that we were gritty and made the plays we had to."

The Mercury are the sixth seed but could move as high as fifth if they finish tied or ahead Washington. The fifth and sixth seeds will host single-elimination playoff games, and the seeding is just a matter of determining which teams they will face in those games.

Phoenix heads home after it outlasted the Seattle Storm 75-71 on Sunday in Seattle. Diana Taurasi scored 18 points and made a clutch 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds to play. Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 29 points and five blocked shots, and added eight rebounds. Mitchell scored 11 for Phoenix (16-16).

"We've been struggling lately so it was important for us to get a confidence-building win over Seattle," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. "We go into these last two games of the regular season looking to play a little more consistently. We still have a lot of work to do and we are going to take each game a game at a time. That's all we can do."

This will be the third and final meeting this season, and the second between the two in the last 13 days. Connecticut hammered the Mercury 94-66 on Aug. 20 and escaped with a 93-92 win Aug. 4, with those games on the Sun's home floor.

The Sun will look to sweep the season series over Phoenix for the first time since 2011 when Connecticut went 2-0 over the Mercury. The Sun also went 2-0 against Phoenix in 2010.

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