Sun set on continuing momentum in visit vs. Dream

The Connecticut Sun are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The Atlanta Dream are in danger of missing the postseason for the second time in three years.

The two Eastern Conference foes tangle Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.

Connecticut (17-9) clinched a spot in the eight-team playoff with Saturday’s 96-88 win over the Dallas Wings. Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones each recorded double-doubles in the victory.

“We knew it was going to take some time with a young team, and ultimately we’re excited,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller told reporters after Saturday’s win. “That locker room certainly has bigger goals, so now we’ll fight for a position in a very, very important potential bye for the four teams that get byes in the first round.”

That fight continues Tuesday against a struggling Dream squad that’s dropped seven in a row, including a disappointing 84-68 blowout loss to the San Antonio Stars on Saturday. Atlanta rookie guard Brittney Sykes scored a season-high 28 points and forward Elizabeth Williams added 16, but the other three Dream starters combined for just six points.

Forward Tiffany Hayes, an All-Star and Atlanta’s leading scorer, played just four minutes and scored only four points. Veteran point guard Layshia Clarendon finished with just one point and missed all five of her field-goal attempts.

“We’ve got to come out with really good energy and effort, like we’ve been playing in the fourth quarters of some of those games,” Clarendon said Monday. “We’ve got to start the game like that and then sustain their runs, stay up and stay together and not hang our heads and get down.”

The Dream (10-18) and Sun split the two previous meetings this season, both in Connecticut. Atlanta beat the Sun 81-74 in the season opener for both teams. Connecticut got revenge in early June in a 104-71 rout of the Dream. Jones had 20 points and all five Sun starters finished in double figures in the win.

Jones told reporters after Saturday’s win that the Sun remain focused, even after clinching the playoff berth.

“It’s something that people probably didn’t believe in when the season started, but we knew it,” Jones told reporters after the win over Dallas. “So I think that’s all that matters. And once our fans and coaches are behind us, that’s all we need.”