A game which a few days ago appeared it might be very meaningful has become little more than a playoff tuneup for the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
It seemed this matchup could play a major role in deciding the East’s regular-season champion after Indiana won eight of nine to pull within 1 1/2 games of Connecticut going into the weekend with a game in hand. The Fever can forge a four-game split of the season series - the first tiebreaker - with a win Wednesday.
Both teams lost Friday, but the Sun (23-9) bounced back with a 60-58 victory at Seattle on Sunday. The next night, Minnesota - the only team with a better record than Connecticut - would complete a home-and-home sweep of the Fever (20-11) with an 86-79 win.
That result wrapped up the East’s No. 1 seed for the Sun. They have a 2 1/2-game lead with two games remaining while Indiana has three left, but Connecticut already has clinched the tiebreaker even if this season series ends up tied.
“It was too bad we couldn’t do some things down the stretch,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said. “We need to stay healthy.”
While Indiana will begin the playoffs against No. 3 seed Atlanta, Connecticut will open against a sub-.500 team but can’t be happy with how it’s playing.
The Sun are 4-3 this month. They committed 19 turnovers in a 93-82 road loss to Los Angeles on Friday, then were held to their lowest point total of the season Sunday while shooting 33.3 percent from the field.
“It was really frustrating, especially when you’re a No. 1 team and you’re going into the playoffs,” star center Tina Charles said after finishing with 12 points and three rebounds Sunday, well off her team-leading averages (18.1, 10.5).
“You don’t want to have these lapses going into the playoffs. Everything needs to be smooth sailing.”
Things haven’t been going smoothly for the Fever, either, but at least the losses in their last two games came to the league-best Lynx. Indiana dropped a season-high three straight June 3-15.
That skid included an 89-81 home loss to Connecticut despite Tamika Catchings’ 31 points. The teams split a home-and-home set later that month.
Kara Lawson averaged 20.0 points in the Sun’s two wins over the Fever but had 10 on 3-of-11 shooting in a loss at Indiana.
Catchings has shot 35.4 percent from the field over her last three games.