WNBA: Connecticut Sun host Chicago Sky

Chicago News

The WNBA All-Star break is a bit of a tease.

“It always seems longer on paper than when you are actually flying somewhere and back and you realize, it goes really quickly,” Connecticut Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said with a laugh.

The Sun are back on the floor at 7 p.m. tonight when they host Chicago at Mohegan Sun Arena.

But in reality, the All-Star break ended on Sunday when the team reported back to get ready for tonight’s game with the Sky.

It meant players approached things differently.

Morgan Tuck was one of those who left town briefly.

“My sister lives in (New) Jersey so I’m going to visit her,” the Connecticut forward said prior to the Sun victory over New York last Wednesday.

Others hung around.

“I’m staying here and working out, being comfortable and resting my body but I understand that I’m young and I can use that to my advantage. This is an opportunity to be a better basketball player after the All-Star break,” rookie post Kristine Anigwe said.

Anigwe hails from the Phoenix area.

The coaching staff was in similar straits.

Assistant coach Chris Koclanes went home to New York while fellow assistant Brandi Poole stayed in Connecticut.

“I didn’t make final plans to go see my parents until the last very minute because of that juggling; Is it even worth it considering how hard it is to get to certain places and back in the short window?” Miller said.

The Sun come back with a 13-6 record, tied with Las Vegas for first-place overall in the WNBA.

“Our focus is trying to stay in first,” Sun captain Jasmine Thomas said.

There are real benefits to that.

If the Sun finish in one of the top two places, they avoid the one-game playoff that has plagued them the past two seasons when Phoenix has knocked them out. They also get a chance to participate in a best-of-five semifinal series something Miller has always professed a fondness to want to see happen.

But to make that happen, the Sun have to go back to that old coaching mantra.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time and not trying to get ahead of ourselves and it’s almost easier that way,” Thomas said.

The easiest way to keep the team focused, according to Miller, is to continue to show the Sun the WNBA standings.

“There is very little separation from Vegas and us to seventh place, It can flip in a hurry because it is so congested, We have to continue to stay focused on the task at hand,” Miller said.

The Sun have a lot to concern themselves with regarding Chicago tonight.

The Sky (11-8), like the Sun, are riding a four-game win streak and averaging over 85 points a game in the run.

There may be two numbers which tell the story tonight.

The first will be the halftime score.

The Sky are 8-0 when leading at the break including a 56-35 lead over Connecticut en route to a 93-75 win in their first meeting this season.

“The first half has really painted a picture halfway through the season for Chicago. When they have a good first quarter, get off to a good start and are leading at halftime, they are nearly unbeatable,” Miller said.

Interestingly enough, in three of their last four wins, the Sky have trailed at the half and rallied for the win.

Shekinna Stricklen may be the other factor to watch.

The Sun guard captured the WNBA 3-point shooting championship on Friday in Las Vegas.

Stricklen’s 3-point shooting prowess is integral to Connecticut’s success.

When she hits three or more, the Sun are 8-0.

Two or less 3-pointers for Stricklen and the Sun are 5-6.

“It’s not only the 3-points and the spacing she provides, it’s the emotional lift. She’s a very popular teammate and our fan base loves it when she is hitting 3’s,” Miller said.

Without Stricklen, the Sun don’t stray out to the line all that often.

Alyssa Thomas has attempted one trey all season and Courtney Williams has 18 attempts leaving Jasmine Thomas (26-for-69) and Jonquel Jones (25-for-85) to hoist them up from beyond the arc.

“When Stricklen is off the floor, we’re a team that goes two-by-two-by-two a lot and you have to make a boatload of 2’s. (Stricklen) provides you that scoring from the arc which is so important. There is no doubt that she is an important part of how we play,” Miller said.

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