It was clear both teams had big-time pressure on them. In an Eastern Conference noted for its mediocrity, the Sky and Sun began the day as the ones most under the playoff horizon with two weeks left in the season.
Each needed the win. In fact, each needs many wins or it’s off to the draft lottery they go again.
And once again, the Sun was on the short end. Chicago ran off the final 12 points of the third quarter to build an 82-66 win at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun has not won at home since June 25.
Chicago was led by Epiphanny Prince, who scored 20. Allie Quigley added 17. Sylvia Fowles has 12 points and 12 rebounds. Elena Delle Donne scored 17.
Alyssa Thomas led four Sun scorers in double-figures with 15 points.
The game will be vitally important. Washington (14-15) drilled New York (12-16) by 33 points on Tuesday. Still, the Liberty are still two games ahead of the Sun in fifth place. The Sun is now 2 ½ behind the fourth-place Sky (13-16) with only four games to play.
The Sun had to play without their best player, rookie forward Chiney Ogwumike. She missed the game with an apparent tooth problem and was not even at the casino on Tuesday. This constituted a major problem.
So did the temper tantrums over the officiating which resulted in three Sun technical fouls, two in the fourth quarter (one each on Katie Douglas and Kelsey Bone).
Ogwumike posted her 12th straight double-figure scoring game (and 27th in 28 games) during Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles. She leads all rookies in scoring and rebounding, a cinch to be picked rookie of the year. The Sun needed her, as they always have this season.
Even without strong performances from Delle Donne or Fowles, at that point, the Sky put the game away at the end of the third quarter by rolling off 12 straight points to turn a 49-46 deficit into a 58-49 lead.
All it took was 3:12 for it to go all wrong as Prince took the game over by scoring the last 10 points. But the Sun contributed by not making a field goal in the final 6:44 after Kelsey Griffin’s hoop provided a 45-42 lead.
The Sun led 41-36 at the half. And they showed no ill-effect from their loss to the troubling loss to the Sparks, during which they blew a six-point lead in the final 30 seconds.
The best barometer to measure trhat was the way Thomas started the game. It was her inbounds pass that was intercepted and led to the three-pointer by Kristi Toliver that gave Los Angeles the 70-69 win.
But it was Thomas who led the Sun out of the blocks with 10 quick points to help Connecticut to a 12-6 lead. It was a short-lived advantage as the Sky soon tied the score at 15, setting off a long period, deep in the second quarter, where the teams traded basket and leads.
There was something else worth nothing about Tuesday. Donovan was in pretty feisty mood, jawing with the officials from the start, pointing up at the video board imploring the crew to look at the play she felt it has just called wrong.
Eventually, the officials had enough. Donovan was hit with technical eight minutes in, much to the delight of the crowd which was more than happy to follow her lead.
Connecticut’s halftime lead wasn’t really built until Thomas assisted a three by Douglas with 2:17 to play in the half to give the Sun a 37-32 advantage. Thomas ended the half with 12 points. Douglas had nine.
Quigley, whose playing time has increased dramtically since Courtney Vandersloot’s knee injury in June, was 4 of 5 from the field and had 10 points in the half.