Professional Basketball

Sun poised for playoff run as season winds down

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When Curt Miller took over the helm of the Connecticut Sun prior to last season, he knew he had a young but talented team that he needed to teach and motivate in order to turn it into a playoff caliber team.

The Sun had not made the playoffs since the 2012 season, Mike Thibault’s last year at the helm, and failed to qualify in each of the three seasons under Anne Donovan.

Last year, the Sun finished with a 14-20 record, good for ninth place and just two games away from securing the eighth and final playoff spot in the WNBA’s new playoff format.

The team started the 2017 season 0-4 before picking up their first win, a 97-79 victory over the Chicago Sky in Rosemount, Illinois, and then entered the mid-part of the season with a five game winning streak. Included in that streak was a 98-93 win over the Minnesota Lynx on June 17, giving the perennial contenders their first loss of the season. WNBA President Lisa Borders congratulated the team afterward.

“Guys, this just proves all the talent that you have on your team, alright? So we’re proud of you and we’re happy that you all did this. You guys are amazing. This league is amazing,” said Borders after the Sun’s victory over the Lynx.

Miller was proud of his young team at that accomplishment.

“This young group is learning how to get to the finish line and learning how to win games close, and more than anything, they just stuck together and believed and stayed in system in what we wanted to accomplish,” he said at the time.

However, the first five-game win streak was just the beginning of confidence building for Connecticut. Since then, they have won five-in-a-row on two additional occasions and found themselves firmly in the playoffs and currently in a battle with the New York Liberty and Washington Mystics for the third seed.

Back when the team was looking for their first win, Miller said, “Well, we gotta stay together in the locker room. There are no moral victories at this level of the professional game. They have to stay together. We, our culture, is the most important thing for us. We know that our best years are ahead. It’s very very important about our culture and, and staying together in the locker room. We know our best days are ahead.”

Miller knows how young his squad is and that there is always room for improvement.

“We don’t have a player over 27 in our rotation, and four players in our top six are still on their rookie contracts. So it’s very very important about our culture and staying together in the locker room,” Miller reiterated.

The Sun (20-11) concludes the regular season schedule with a three-game road trip – Tuesday at the Washington Mystics (17-13), Friday at the Phoenix Mercury (15-16) and then Sept. 3 at the Los Angeles Sparks (23-8). The highest seed that they can get is the third seed, by the nature of having lost to Los Angeles twice already this season, and the lowest they can get is the fifth seed.

If they hold on to either the third or fourth seeds, they will qualify for the first round bye and host a second round single-elimination game. Regardless of what happens in post-season play, the Connecticut Sun team has gotten back on track and is poised for future success, exactly where Miller wants them.

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