Sun-Liberty Preview

The Associated Press

The Connecticut Sun entered the WNBA's Olympic break on their longest winning streak in four years.

Opening the second half of the season with a home-and-home set against the slumping New York Liberty could help the Eastern Conference leaders continue their surge.

Led by Olympic gold medalists Tina Charles and Asjha Jones, Connecticut goes for a sixth consecutive victory Thursday night in Newark, where the Liberty will try to avoid a fifth straight loss in this series.

With Charles posting her 12th double-double of the season with 25 points and 13 rebounds, the Sun (15-4) entered the month-long Olympic break July 13 with an 80-78 overtime victory at Chicago.

Connecticut, which holds a four-game conference lead over second-place Indiana, has won five in a row for the first time since a seven-game run July 20-Sept. 5, 2008.

While there will be plenty of concern around the league about player conditioning as the second half kicks off, Sun coach Mike Thibault won't have to worry about Charles and Jones, who spent the hiatus in London as part of the U.S. team that won its fifth straight Olympic gold.

The Sun forwards scored four points apiece in Saturday's 86-50 victory over France in the gold-medal game.

"It means everything," said Charles, the Sun leader with 18.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. "It means they put a great group of 12 girls together to go out there and get the job done and we did."

The Liberty (6-12) haven't been taking care of business, and they open the second half in fifth place in the East. The club entered the break with its third straight loss, 70-53 to conference-worst Washington.

New York, though, could get a boost with the return of third-leading scorer Plenette Pierson, who has missed the last eight games with calf and knee injuries. The veteran forward, averaging 11.2 points and 4.9 boards, has been practicing at 100 percent during the break, according to the Liberty's official website.

"She's like a coach out there, she's consistent, and she's in improved shape," assistant coach Monique Ambers said.

If New York is going to make a run at a third consecutive playoff appearance, it likely needs Cappie Pondexter to come up big in the second half. The four-time All-Star is third in the league in scoring with 20.0 points per game.

However, Pondexter finished with a season-low six the last time these teams met as the Liberty lost 97-55 in Connecticut on June 15. It was the most lopsided victory in Sun history and the worst loss in New York's 16 seasons in the WNBA.

The Liberty open a season-high five-game road trip Saturday when these teams conclude their season series.

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