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NEW YORK (AP) — The Connecticut Sun’s playoff chances are setting.
With just four games left, they sit in 10th place after an 89-82 loss to the New York Liberty on Friday night.
“We might need a little divine intervention,” said Chiney Ogwumike, who scored 20 points for the Sun. “We have to take care of business, handle business win games. This was a huge game for us, but we played hard.”
The Sun (11-19) are two games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot and will need a lot of help even if they do win their final few games to avoid missing the postseason for a fourth straight year. To make matters worse, they traded their first round pick in the 2017 draft to Los Angeles to acquire Jonquel Jones before this season started.
While Connecticut is on the outside looking in, New York has already clinched the No. 3 seed. The Liberty (21-10) hope to use the final few games to get healthy. They were down to eight healthy players against Connecticut with Shoni Schimmel (concussion), Tanisha Wright (knee), Kiah Stokes (hip) and Shavonte Zellous (back) all sidelined.
“That’s the most important thing to get healthy,” said Tina Charles, who led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The Liberty rebounded from a disappointing loss to Seattle on Wednesday when they were blown out at home.
“We need to find a level where we’re consistent,” Charles said. “We have to know how to get ourselves out of situations when things aren’t going our way.”
The Sun didn’t go down without a fight. Every time that it seemed New York was in control, Connecticut would battle back. The Liberty led by six at the half, and opened up a double-digit advantage early in the fourth before the Sun got within 78-76 with 4:39 left.
New York scored the next seven points, capped by a 3-pointer by Epiphanny Prince to finally put the game away.
Courtney Williams scored a career-high 20 points.
Charles, who played four years in Connecticut before being traded to New York before the 2014 season, has excelled against her former team. She matched her career-high 32 points earlier this season. She was well on her way to that mark again with 17 in the first half on Friday.
After one basket where she also drew a foul, the Madison Square Garden fans, which included U.S. track star Tori Bowie, started chanting MVP. Charles’ dad led the cheers while holding up a sign with his daughter’s No. 31 on it.
“I’m not all about that. I’m not about all that flashy stuff, that’s for his enjoyment,” Charles said. “I love that he’s very supportive. He didn’t do it any other season. He only did it in 2012 (when Charles won MVP). It just shows he knows my game and knows when I’m playing at a certain level and that’s the level of respect I have for my father. That’s one of the reason I wanted to play here. So that he could have those moments.”
STORM 81, MYSTICS 76
WASHINGTON (AP) — Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird scored 17 points apiece and Seattle beat Washington in a critical showdown between teams battling for the final playoff spot.
The Storm (14-17) won their third straight on the road to move into a tie for seventh place with Phoenix, a half-game in front of the Mystics (12-18) in the chase for the final playoff spot.
Emma Messeman led Washington with 15 points.
FEVER 95, SKY 88
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Briann January scored the last six points of the game from the foul line and finished with 20 points, leading Indiana past Chicago.
Erica Wheeler added 16 points and Marissa Coleman and Lynetta Kizer 14 apiece to help the Fever (15-15) move into a tie for fourth with the Sky (15-15) and take the tiebreaker advantage.
Chicago was without Elena Delle Donne, the league scoring leader who suffered a thumb injury in a game Wednesday night. Cappie Pondexter led the Sky with 22 points.
WINGS 92, STARS 84
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Odyssey Sims scored 20 points and Dallas beat San Antonio to end an 11-game losing streak and give coach Fred Williams his 100th victory.
Skylar Diggins added 16 points for the Wings (10-21). Moriah Jefferson scored 27 points for San Antonio (6-24).
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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Chiney Ogwumike and the Connecticut Sun withstood Phoenix center Brittney Griner’s first dunk of the season and career-high 29 points to beat the Mercury 87-74 on Friday night.
Ogwumike scored 20 of her 22 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds, Jasmine Thomas had 18 points, and Alex Bentley added 16. The Sun (11-17) have won three of their last four games and snapped the Mercury’s three-game win streak.
Griner’s driving one-handed dunk, the eighth slam of her career, came off a no-look pass from Diana Taurasi to pull Phoenix (13-15) to 51-46 with 6:44 to play in the third quarter. But the Sun used a 9-0 run to help stretch their lead to 68-54 at the end the quarter.
Connecticut has won eight of its last 12 games after starting the season 3-13.
LYNX 75, MYSTICS 69
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Maya Moore scored 27 points, Sylvia Fowles had 15 points and 17 rebounds and Minnesota held on to beat Washington.
Moore was 7 of 17 from the floor and made 12 of 13 free throws. She has scored 20 or more points 13 times this season.
Western Conference-leading Minnesota (23-5) has won 10 of its last 12 games and eight straight at home. Tayler Hill had 15 points, and Leilani Mitchell 13 for the Mystics (10-17).
SPARKS 87, WINGS 79
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nneka Ogwumike had 28 points and 12 rebounds, Kristi Toliver added 24 points and Los Angeles Sparks pulled away to beat Dallas.
The Sparks (23-5) have won two straight to keep pace with Minnesota atop the Western Conference.
Odyssey Sims scored 26 points to lead Dallas (9-20). The Stars have dropped 10 straight, the longest current losing streak in the WNBA. Glory Johnson had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
SKY 92, STORM 88
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Tamera Young scored 24 points, and Elena Delle Donne added 22 to help Chicago beat Seattle.
Chicago (14-13) has won three straight and six of seven to move into a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. Jewell Loyd had 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Seattle (11-17).
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NEW YORK (AP) — Diana Taurasi came up with the big play to send the game to overtime and Candice Dupree took over in the extra period to get Phoenix the victory.
Dupree scored eight of her 26 points in OT and Taurasi added 24, including three key free throws near the end of regulation, to help the Mercury rally to beat New York 104-97 in overtime on Sunday, ending the Liberty’s six-game winning streak.
“We stood in there, got some stops. (Brittney Griner) was fantastic today. Dupree (too),” Taurasi said. “Everyone did just a little bit and we got the win.”
Phoenix (6-9) trailed by 10 heading into the fourth quarter before rallying. The Mercury tied the game at 89 on Taurasi’s free throws with 7.8 seconds left. Tina Charles had a chance to win it for New York in regulation but her baseline jumper was short.
Phoenix was 27-for-33 from the foul line, including going 17 of 22 in the fourth quarter and overtime. New York was 12 for 15 for the game.
“You know, it happens. The whole fourth quarter was frustrating. They couldn’t score except at the free throw line,” New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Almost every one of their points seemed like was at the free throw line. I know it wasn’t that case, but it seemed that way. I know they shot a lot. Thirty-three free throws for a game is a significant amount for what we shot and that was disappointing.”
Dupree was 11 for 13 from the field for the Mercury, who are ninth in the AP power poll. Her basket gave the Mercury a 101-95 advantage and the Liberty couldn’t get closer than four the rest of the way.
New York (10-5) was playing its third overtime game in its last four and had its longest winning streak since 2010 when the team won 10 straight. New York heads out for a three-game road trip to Minnesota, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Charles scored 26 points and Sugar Rodgers added 23 for the Liberty.
The Mercury jumped all over New York, scoring 18 of the first 22 points. The Liberty chipped away and trailed by one at the half. They led 56-55 with 2:39 left in the third before outscoring Phoenix 11-2 the rest of the quarter.
Phoenix cut its deficit to 85-84 on Taurasi’s 3-pointer from the corner with 1:16 left. The teams traded baskets over the next 40 seconds.
Charles then hit a tough sweeping hook across the lane with 20.6 seconds left to make it 89-86 with 20.6 seconds left. But Taurasi, shooting a 3-pointer, was fouled by Tanisha Wright with 7.8 seconds left to tie it.
All-Star Kelsey Bone played nearly 8 minutes for the Mercury, scoring six points. She was acquired Saturday night and had arrived in New York a few hours before the game.
The Liberty, who are third in poll, honored their inaugural 1997 team before the game. The players were introduced using their original video introductions, much to the delight of the crowd that included the first WNBA President Val Ackerman. The Liberty fans gave a long ovation to former players.
U.S. Olympic coach Geno Auriemma was also in the crowd, receiving hugs at halftime from Taurasi and a few other players.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nneka Ogwumike had 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and Candace Parker scored on back-to-back possessions late to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Connecticut Sun 80-73 on Sunday night.
Parker and Essence Carson scored 10 points apiece for the Sparks (13-1).
A 3-pointer by Alex Bentley pulled Connecticut (3-12) within five with 2:12 to play, but Parker answered with two baskets to ignite a 7-2 spurt that gave the Sparks an 80-70 lead with 32 seconds left.
Los Angeles, No. 2 in the AP WNBA power poll, trailed by two at halftime but opened the third with a 9-0 run — including a pair of 3-pointers by Carson — to take the lead for good. The Sparks shot 55.6 percent (10 of 18), while limiting the Sun to 5-of-16 shooting (31.2 percent), in the quarter.
Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka’s younger sister, led 11th-ranked Connecticut with 16 points. Alyssa Thomas added 11 points and nine rebounds and tied for her career high with seven assists.
NEW YORK (AP) — Kelsey Bone had a whirlwind 24 hours.
She woke up in Seattle on Saturday morning and flew with the Connecticut Sun to Los Angeles. When she got to LA, Bone learned that she had been traded to the Phoenix Mercury.
Bone hopped an overnight flight to New York to play with the Mercury against the Liberty.
“It definitely has been a crazy 24 hours,” Bone said before the game. “They asked me if I wanted to play and I said if I’m coming I do.”
She checked in for the first time with 3 minutes left in the first half and played nearly 8 minutes in the Mercury’s 104-97 overtime victory. Bone scored six points.
Getting the All-Star to New York wasn’t the only logistical problem for the Mercury. They didn’t have a jersey for her. Bone wore No. 45. The Mercury had that number in stock, but it had Noelle Quinn’s name on it. In accordance with league rules, they needed to get Bone’s name embroidered with the same Orange color as the rest of the team. So a new jersey had to be made and brought to Madison Square Garden for a 3 p.m. tip. It had quite the journey.
Since the trade, which sent Courtney Williams and the rights to second-round draft pick Jillian Alleyne to Connecticut, happened relatively late on Saturday the Mercury couldn’t ship a new uniform. So the team had an intern catch an overnight flight from Phoenix with the jersey in hand.
“I think the jersey was in the plane right behind mine,” Bone said, laughing.
The 6-foot-4 Bone was the WNBA’s most-improved player last season after averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. The fifth overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft by New York, she was Connecticut’s second-leading scorer this season with 12.5 points per game and averaged 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
As Connecticut floundered this season, Bone had asked the team to trade her. They finally were able to accommodate her wish on Saturday. The Mercury will host Connecticut on Wednesday.
“It had been discussed. I had asked a couple times (to be traded). It didn’t catch me off guard. It didn’t catch me by surprise,” Bone said. “I’m excited about it. I’m about being comfortable.
“When things don’t work, you have to be comfortable enough to say it’s not for me. That was a situation that wasn’t for me, and I’m ok with that. I played there for 2½ years. It’s been hard. We’ve been doing a lot of losing. That’s a franchise that’s going to get it together and figure it out. I’m happy to have been a part of them.”
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Maya Moore had 27 points and a career-high 10 assists to help the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx open the season with a 95-76 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday night.
The Lynx raised their banner prior to tip-off — celebrating their third championship in five years — but Moore downplayed the festivities.
“We were trying to stay ready and prepared throughout the ceremony,” she said.
Moore is the player to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in a WNBA season opener.
The Lynx started to pull away in the second quarter, finishing the half with a 12-5 run to lead 52-42. Diana Taurasi’s jumper pulled the Mercury within 60-53 midway through the third quarter, but Minnesota answered with a 13-2 run and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Seimone Augustus added 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting, Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and 14 rebounds for her 100th career double-double and Lindsay Whalen chipped in with 14.
Moore, Fowles, Augustus and Whalen made 33 of their 54 shots and the Lynx finished shooting 54 percent from the field.
Minnesota opened the season with the top ranking in the AP WNBA power poll, receiving 10 of the 14 first-place votes. Phoenix ranked second and garnered the other four votes for the top spot. The teams have met in the Western Conference Finals three straight years and four of the last five. The WNBA approved a new playoff format for its 20th season that will seed the top eight teams based on winning percentage, allowing same-conference rivals such as the Mercury and Lynx to potentially meet in the finals.
Taurasi led the Mercury with 18 points in her return. She sat out last season. She reunites a starting unit with Penny Taylor, Brittney Griner, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree that is 30-3 for the Mercury. All three losses are against the Lynx.
Taylor scored 13 points, Griner added 12, and Bonner 10. Dupree logged her 10,000th career minute with the first two minutes of the game.
LIBERTY 87, MYSTICS 76
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tina Charles scored 24 points, including a three-point play that sparked a late run, to help the Liberty beat the Mystics.
With 2:39 left and the game tied at 73, Charles started the spurt with a basket and free throw. Kiah Stokes added a basket and New York had three free throws to make it 81-73. Stefanie Dolson finally ended the drought, hitting a free throw with 27 seconds remaining. The Liberty hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Sugar Rodgers added 19 points for New York, which was fourth in the inaugural Associated Press power poll this week.
Tayler Hill scored 20 points and Bria Hartley added 17 for the Mystics, who opened the season at No. 6 in the poll.
WINGS 90, FEVER 79
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Plenette Pierson scored 17 points and the Wings beat the Fever.
Dallas, formerly the Tulsa Shock, started the season ranked seventh in the AP WNBA Power Rankings. Indiana opened the season fifth.
Odyssey Sims had 14 points, Karima Christmas scored 13 and Theresa Plaisance added 12 for the Wings, who played without star Skylar Diggins. She tore her ACL last season. The Wings said after the game that Diggins was day-to-day. Dallas plays in New York on Sunday night.
Tiffany Mitchell, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 WNBA draft, led the Fever with 18 points in her debut.
DREAM 73, STARS 63, OT
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Angel McCoughtry scored four of her 15 points in overtime to help Atlanta beat San Antonio.
Tiffany Hayes added 13 points and Layshia Clarendon scored 12 for Atlanta.
The Dream took the lead for good 17 seconds into the extra period on Clarendon’s 3-point play. Kayla McBride answered to cut the deficit to one, but the Stars went scoreless the rest of the way as the Dream pulled away.
McBride led the Stars with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting and Dearica Hamby added 14.
SKY 93, SUN 70
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Courtney Vandersloot had 14 points and seven assists, Cappie Pondexter added 13 points, and Chicago beat Connecticut.
The Sky’s Elena Delle Donne, who led the WNBA in scoring (23.8 per game) and was named league MVP last season, missed the game with an illness.
Connecticut missed six of its first seven field-goal attempts as the Sky, who never trailed, built a 10-4 lead.
Rachel Banham and Morgan Tuck each hit a 3-pointer to cut the Sun’s deficit to 14-13 with 1:38 left in the first quarter, but Cheyenne Parker scored the final seven points in a 19-5 run that gave Chicago a 15-point lead with 5:57 to go in the first half.
Alex Bentley led the Sun with 14 points. Banham scored 13.