Surprising Sun visit revamped Liberty (Jul 19, 2017)
It's been a while since the Connecticut Sun have been taken seriously. After all, their win totals the past four seasons -- 14, 15, 13 and 10 -- have kept the Sun near or at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The 2017 season started and it was business as usual for head coach Curt Miller as the Sun lost their first four games.
Then something happened along the way to another uninspiring season -- the Sun won five straight games, twice, and now sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 12-8 record heading into the All-Star break.
But first the Sun have some business to take care of before the All-Star break as they look for a season sweep of the New York Liberty in a matinee affair Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The Sun already defeated the Liberty 96-76 at home on June 14 and at the Garden on June 23 by a score of 94-89.
Connecticut is led by All-Stars Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas, both first-time selections. Jones has quietly established herself as one of the premier frontcourt players in the league. She is just one of two players -- Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles is the other -- to average a double-double (15.9 points, 11.8 assists).
Thomas is the engine that makes things go, averaging 5.2 assists to go with her 15 points per game.
"We feed off of her energy," fellow guard Courtney Williams told the New Haven Register. "Her and Jas (Jasmine Thomas), when they have it I think we have it going as well."
To say the Liberty (9-9) have underachieved in the first half of the season would be an understatement. New York opened the season winning seven of 11 but then the offense went into a funk and the Liberty dropped five of their next seven, forcing head coach Bill Laimbeer to tweak his starting lineup.
The initial result -- an 85-55 win over a shorthanded Washington squad -- snapped a two-game losing streak.
Sugar Rodgers was benched in favor Bria Hartley and the third-year guard pumped in 15 points. Rodgers added some much-needed firepower off the bench and finished with 14 points
"We gave it our best shot with having (Epiphany Prince) and Sugar out there on the court at the same time," Laimbeer told the New York Daily News. "It just didn't give us the pace of play that we were looking for, getting up and down a little more. ... We felt we needed to get more easy baskets."
The Liberty entered the game averaging less than 15 bench points per game. Against the Mystics, New York erupted for 41 points by the backups.
The Sun will be a better barometer to determine whether the Liberty offense has come of its doldrums. The Mystics were missing All-Star Elena Delle Donne (sprained ankle) and second-leading scorer Tayler Hill (torn ACL).
"I think (Connecticut's) a true test just to see where we are," said New York All-Star Tina Charles.