Sun, Fever trying to overcome the grind, meet Monday

Jun. 9—MOHEGAN — It was shortly after what stood as the marquee game of the WNBA season thus far. New York edged Connecticut 82-75 Saturday in a game between the league's top two teams before a sold-out crowd of 8,910 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

And the conversation turned to ... how tired everyone is, with the WNBA employing a condensed schedule, allowing for a month-long Olympic break this summer.

"I think where we kind of have to take a hit is just not the ability to practice because we have to rest," Connecticut's DiJonai Carrington said. "They have to let us stay off our feet a little bit.

"Like a lot of teams, we've played a lot of games and been on the road and all these things. That's really the biggest hit has been just not being able to practice. That's why it's translated to the lack of continuity sometimes on offense and the lack of continuity on help-side defense. We just need reps.

"But I think the coaches are doing a good job of helping our bodies to be ready for the next game as far as recovery."

Both teams Saturday had quick turnarounds.

The Liberty beat Washington 93-88 on Sunday with what Saturday's leading scorer Sabrina Ionescu called "heavy legs." The Sun, meanwhile, who were off to a 9-0 start to the season before the loss to New York, are scheduled to meet the Indiana Fever and heralded rookie Caitlin Clark beginning at 7 p.m. Monday back at Mohegan Sun Arena (NBC Sports Boston).

The Fever (3-9) have also spoken often of the challenges of their schedule. The young team played 11 games in 20 days to start the season, going 2-9.

They've already played the Liberty three times and this will be Indiana's third meeting with the Sun, teams which feature the reigning MVP in New York's Breanna Stewart and the runner-up in Connecticut's Alyssa Thomas, both projected to be on the Olympic team when it's announced this week.

The Fever had no more than two days between any games during that stretch and played on back-to-back days twice.

They finally got a brief respite, going without a game from June 2 in New York to June 7 in Washington, one in which they came away with an 85-83 victory.

"It's been really nice, honestly, just a good mental reset more than anything," Indiana's Clark told reporters following the break. "It's a crazy schedule to start. It's good to get in the gym and actually practice and work on some stuff that we needed to work on.

"I know it's only a couple days, but it was super helpful for a team that's so inexperienced. It's awesome how much improvement we've had with no practices. I think that's a positive, too. We really improved in a lot of areas going game-to-game — you've just got to implement that stuff watching film and then go take it into the next game."

Clark, the former Iowa All-American who was the top pick in this year's WNBA Draft, said the team's walk-throughs before games were still intense, but there's no replacement for going up and down the court in real time.

"When I'm playing the point guard spot, I haven't gotten to practice with my team much," Clark said. "That's really hard trying to navigate an offense and you haven't had much practice time together."

The Sun are led by DeWanna Bonner with 18.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Thomas with 12.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game and Bri Jones with 13.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Through Saturday's games, Thomas led the WNBA in assists while Jones was first in field goal percentage at .606.

Clark leads the Fever with 16.8 points per game, to go with 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists, while fellow guard Kelsey Mitchell is averaging 15.2 points per game.