UNCASVILLE — Time ran out on the Connecticut Sun's season long before the clock did on Sunday's regular season finale at the Mohegan Sun Arena against the Atlanta Dream.
The Sun's 84-55 win over the Eastern Conference champions was fancy window dressing that didn't do much for the overall look of a 13-21 season. The 29-point margin marked the season's largest margin of victory. The Sun's previous best was 23 points at Seattle on July 15, 2014.
"It [the season] was an adventure to say the least," Sun guard Renee Mongtomery said. "Being a veteran in this league, and having played so many years of my career in Connecticut [previously as an All-American at UConn], I have become accustomed to winning and being in the playoffs.
"Two years ago, we were in the Eastern Conference finals. It's hard to accept being the last-place team [in the conference] two years straight. It always seems like we are going through changes. It was a trying season that, if anything, makes me mentally tougher."
The infusion of a new attitude and significant younger players provided a lot of promise but, in the end, they had just three more victories than last year, when the Sun's record was the worst in the league.
Alex Bentley led the Sun with 19 points. Angel McCoughtry, who played only 22 minutes, led the Dream (19-15) with 10 points.
So as the WNBA playoffs begin, the Sun will be on the outside for the second straight year since the dismissal of coach Mike Thibault after the team's elimination in the 2012 conference finals.
"I feel kind of empty to be honest," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "I'm happy that we were able to play everyone that was available [Sunday] and they were able to step up and produce. But I was not looking forward to having a longer offseason than I already have.
"The take-away is that everyone is left with a little taste of what we need to accomplish next year."
First things first: The Sun own two of the first four picks in the 2015 draft, regardless of what happens in the draft lottery Thursday. They own the first-round pick of New York, which finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and traded the pick to the Sun for Tina Charles.
The 13th win, however, means the Sun will not finish last overall among the lottery teams. They will be in the third slot with a 17.8 percent chance of picking first. But when you combine the added probability (10.4) that comes with owning New York's pick, the Sun's chances of having the first selection increase to just over 28 percent.
The college draft may not be an elixir for any team in the league this season. So the Sun might need to look elsewhere for the infusion of talent they need to take the next step.
The Sun won five home games — and just two after topping off a six-game winning streak June 25. They went 5-15 following that 79-69 victory over Chicago, sapping whatever hope existed when they sat at 8-6.
Chiney Ogwumike, the likely rookie of the year, led the team in scoring and rebounding, echoing in many ways the first year of the player she essentially replaced, Charles. Ogwumike will be at USA Basketball's training camp in Annapolis, Md., Sept. 7-10 and then, if she is not selected to the World Championship team, will report to her Italian team Oct. 1.
Donovan, in the second year of a three-year deal, will be under greater scrutiny next season.
"I understand that, absolutely," Donovan said. "When I took the job, the mandate was to win the championship. ... And then the wheels fell off. When you are a coach, there is pressure every year, particularly in the pro game. Look at Carol Ross [who was fired by Los Angeles this season]. She was coach of the year two years ago. There is no security, no matter how well you are doing."
Thibault's 2012 team won 25 games with a very young roster. Donovan's first two Sun teams won a combined 23 games.
"Last season, by far, was the most frustrating season I have ever been through in my career," said Donovan, who coached Seattle to a WNBA title and the United States to OIympic gold in 2008. "This season has been about growing pains. ... It was like a young college team; the freshmen need to become sophomores. Everyone needs to keep improving. I have complete confidence that this team will do that next year."Copyright © 2015, CT Now