Sun lose late lead and drop heartbreaker to Liberty in OT

Aug. 24—MOHEGAN — Of more immediate interest — or at least it was Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena — is whether the Connecticut Sun can surpass the "super team," otherwise known as the talent-heavy New York Liberty, in the WNBA regular season standings.

The Sun entered Thursday's game 2.5 games behind New York, which loaded its roster in the offseason with Breanna Stewart and former Sun forward and league Most Valuable Player Jonquel Jones, among others.

Of more wide-ranging interest — regular-season accomplishments are easily dismissed in sports now — is the potential the two teams meet in the playoffs.

It was a discouraging night on both counts for the Sun, who lost a 20-point lead in the second half — and a four-point lead in the last 10 seconds of regulation — losing to the Liberty, 95-90 in overtime before a sellout crowd of 9,168 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"A tough one to lose. Disappointing," Sun coach Stephanie White said. "I thought our team played our butts off. But the margin for error is slim and against New York it's even tighter."

The Sun (23-11) had a four-point lead (82-78) with 10 seconds left in regulation, but squandered it. Stewart scored with five seconds left to make it 82-80. The Liberty had no more timeouts. But the Sun turned the ball over after inbounding it — and then fouled Sabrina Ionescu shooting a three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left. Ionescu made two of three free throws to force overtime.

"We need to be a little smarter down the stretch," Sun forward DeWanna Bonner said. "Playoff games usually come down to the wire."

Stewart led New York (26-7) with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Jones had 21 points and 14 rebounds. Ionescu had 18.

Bonner led the Sun with 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Alyssa Thomas had 22 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, playing all 45 minutes.

"Everyone has New York and Vegas as 'super teams' and we played great," Thomas said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish the game."

The Sun used an 18-4 run to close the first half and take a 48-34 lead. Rebecca Allen scored all eight of her first-half points in the last two minutes, including a pair of three-pointers, the second of which came with 4.5 seconds remaining.

The Sun made eight three-pointers in the first half and shot 52 percent overall from the field.

It took the Sun more than two minutes to score, but when they did, they scored 13 straight points to take an early 13-4 lead. New York responded with a 16-5 run and led by as many as four in the half before the Sun's late-half explosion.

The teams will play again Sept. 1 at the Barclays Center in New York. The Sun, meanwhile, will play six of their final seven games at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Connecticut, New York and the defending champion Las Vegas Aces (29-4) have already secured WNBA playoff spots with the Dallas Wings (18-15) currently fourth in the overall standings.

The Sun return home on Sunday to face the Los Angeles Sparks and former head coach Curt Miller at 1 p.m.