The Connecticut Sun made quick work of their first-round opponent. The Indiana Fever are hoping the Sun's lengthy layoff heading into this best-of-three Eastern Conference finals series will play to their advantage as they were just pushed to the limit.
Meeting in the postseason for the first time in five years, Connecticut and Indiana will play Game 1 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena as both teams continue their bid for a first WNBA title.
Making their second consecutive playoff appearance, the top-seeded Sun swept New York in the semifinals for their first postseason series win since defeating Washington in the opening round of 2006.
Tina Charles, the league MVP and top rebounder with 10.5 per game, averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 boards against the Liberty, while Asjha Jones totaled 30 points and 17 boards and Kara Lawson added 23 and 15, respectively, while making six 3-pointers in 14 attempts.
"Our three All-Star players stepped up," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after Saturday's 75-62 Game 2 victory. "It was terrific, but we had great performances from a lot of people."
The Fever, the No. 2 seed, are well aware of the Sun's talent after losing three of four meetings in the regular season, including both in Uncasville, but they're hoping Connecticut won't be able to carry over the momentum.
"They're a fine team," Indiana coach Lin Dunn told the team's official website. "They're going to start at home. They're going to be rested. Let's just hope that they are over-rested.
"I think, at the end of the day, if we can defend at a high level, continue to do what we've done on the boards and be balanced in our scoring, then we have a chance to steal this series."
The Fever make their second consecutive conference finals appearance -- and fifth in eight years -- after knocking off Atlanta, the two-time defending East champs. The only home team to lose its playoff opener, Indiana ended the Dream's five-game home winning streak in Game 2 on Sunday before advancing with Tuesday's 75-64 victory.
Seven-time All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, the defensive player of the year, will likely be a key to this series, as will former Sun Katie Douglas, but the Fever will need contributions from others if they're going to reach their second WNBA finals and first since 2009.
Dunn said Briann January is playing as well as she's ever seen after the fourth-year guard averaged 16.7 points and 5.0 assists in the opening round. Fever forward Erlana Larkins, who hadn't started until two games left in the regular season, also picked a good time to step up her game, totaling 43 points and 32 rebounds against Atlanta.
"In the years past, it's always been Tamika having to spearhead that blue-collar mentality," Douglas said after Larkins totaled 16 points and 20 boards in Game 3. "And I think it takes a little pressure off of Tamika. (Larkins) can go down there and bang. It really loosens things up for us."
Having former Sun guard Erin Phillips in the starting five could do the same thing. A 43.8 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season, Phillips was added to the starting lineup after Game 1 -- as was Larkins -- and hit 3 of 5 from long range in the series while scoring 20 points.
Lawson averaged 18.3 points and hit 10 of 27 from beyond in the arc against Indiana in the regular season, while Charles scored 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in those contests.
Jones scored 30 in the first three games against Indiana in 2012 before chipping in with four off the bench in a 73-67 home win Sept. 19 -- her first game after missing 14 with a strained Achilles' tendon.
This is the third postseason series between these clubs, and first since Indiana won the 2007 conference semifinals.
The Sun swept the Fever to reach the WNBA finals in 2005 to make their most recent finals appearance.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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