The Connecticut Sun started their post-Olympic run to the playoffs with a win over Minnesota, the second-best team in the WNBA at home on Friday. To keep their recent surge going strong the Sun will have to bring their best game with them on Sunday when they travel to Atlanta to square off against the Dream at Philips Arena.
Connecticut (9-16) is rising thanks to a three-game win streak and a surge that has seen the Sun garner victories in six of their past nine contests. Their win against Minnesota featured six double-figure scorers (Alyssa Thomas paced the attack with 15 points) and was Connecticut's second against the Lynx (who have lost just five games) this season.
All that is grand but the Sun is still on the outside of the WNBA's new playoff structure, in which the top eight teams regardless of conference earn spots in the postseason. Connecticut was in 10th entering Saturday night's games around the league.
Even though Connecticut is fighting for its playoff life, the game is just as important to Atlanta (13-13), the fifth seed. The top four finishers gain first-round playoff byes and, because the initial two rounds of the postseason are single-elimination, the last thing the Dream wants to do is get into a winner-take-all situation.
Atlanta lost 90-82 on the road to Chicago (currently the sixth seed) on Friday in the two teams' return to the regular season after the month-long break for the Rio Summer Olympics despite Angel McCoughtry's 22 points and Elizabeth Williams' 20 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Dream has played Connecticut three times already this season and has won all three but each game went down the wire, with two decided by six points and the third a four-point Atlanta victory.
Atlanta could get a boost with the potential return of Sancho Lyttle, who was originally thought to be out for the season after a left foot injury on July 15th but now is expected to be back in late August. At the time of her injury, Lyttle led the league in steals at 2.2 per game and was fifth in rebounds at 8.5 per game.