It's been an up-and-down season for the Indiana Fever, but they are on the verge of getting the opportunity to defend their first WNBA title.
The Fever can clinch a ninth straight playoff berth Saturday night at home if they beat the short-handed Connecticut Sun.
Indiana (14-16) has found that defending the crown hasn't been easy with Katie Douglas, Erin Phillips, Jeanette Pohlen and rookie Layshia Clarendon all missing time due to injuries during the team's 1-7 start.
The Fever remain without Douglas (bulging disc) and Phillips has an eye injury that caused her to miss Friday's 82-77 victory at Chicago. Indiana, however, could be building momentum after improving to 3-1 against the Sky by snapping the regular-season Eastern Conference champions' seven-game win streak.
Briann January scored a career-high 23 points and Erlana Larkins added 13 and 12 rebounds as all five starters scored in double figures. The Fever won for the third time in five games and moved into a tie for third place with Washington.
"It's just one more win closer to clinching a spot in the playoffs and that's all I'm concerned with," January said.
January made a career-high five 3-pointers after missing the Fever's previous game with an illness. She was seen icing her knee afterward.
"It's just maintenance," she said. "I'll be fine tomorrow."
Another reason Indiana has struggled this year is its 1-2 record against league-worst Connecticut, but there's reason to believe it can even the season series Saturday.
The Sun (8-22) announced Friday they would be without reigning MVP Tina Charles for the remainder of the season. Charles, out with a knee injury, averaged 18.0 points and 10.1 rebounds and had 17 double-doubles.
Connecticut is already without starters Kelly Faris, Kara Lawson and Allie Hightower.
Charles averaged 22.0 points on 56.9 percent shooting along with 9.3 rebounds per game against Indiana.
The Sun had eight available players but still ended a seven-game slide Friday with a 77-70 home win over the Mystics. Tan White matched her career high with 26 points and added six assists.
"I'm so proud of that effort from those eight,'' coach Anne Donovan said. "They just played so well and so hard, followed the game plan and just hustled from beginning to end."
Kelsey Griffin added 17 points, and Mistie Bass had eight points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, suffering through the worst season in franchise history.
"We have nothing to lose,'' Bass said. "This group is not the type to lay down and die. The season happened the way that it did, but it doesn't mean we have to end that way."
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