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Sun-Fever likely to become physical

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published October 08. 2012 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Sun coach Mike Thibault, questioning a call in last Sunday's playoff game against the Dream, is expecting a physical game when his team plays at Indiana tonight in the WNBA playoffs.
Connecticut can advance to the WNBA Finals with a victory

Indianapolis - For a while the other night, they could have darkened the scoreboards at Mohegan Sun Arena and measured the first game of the Eastern Conference finals by first downs.

And so while the venue changes tonight (to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 8 p.m., ESPN2), the narrative changes (only one team's season could end) what remains steadfast is this: The Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever will use each other for punching bags.

A victory for the Sun gives them the franchise's third berth in the WNBA Finals, which open at Minnesota on Sunday night.

"The history of Indiana has been to come out, foul on every possession and see what they can get away with," Sun coach Mike Thibault said Sunday after practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I expect that (tonight) from them from the start. I'm sure we're going to get fouled on almost every play."

That's not as much of a complaint from Thibault as a warning/public service announcement. So is his concern with how the game will be officiated.

"Both teams have to recover quickly as to how the game is being called," he said. "You hope for consistency from one end to the other. If you have to adjust, you adjust."

The Sun have ended two playoff series with victories on the road in the 10 years: In Charlotte (2003) and last week against New York. Connecticut is 14-4 on the road this season.

"Our team needs to realize that a closeout game, especially on the road, is really hard," Thibault said. "You're going to get a great effort. You've got to decide whether you want to commit yourself to the same effort to win as the other night. Maybe even more early in the game defensively."

The Sun's second halves this postseason have been largely exemplary. The first halves have been a lot like a woozy heavyweight fighter: lots of wobbling, coughing and wheezing. Last time the Sun didn't respond fast enough at Indiana, they lost 95-61 on June 21.

Plus, Connecticut must be mindful that Indiana forward Tamika Catchings, among the league's elite, may begin tonight's game with the urgency of an emergency room nurse. Catchings shot 2-for-14 in Game 1.

"Some of the shots that Catch missed she normally makes," Sun guard Kara Lawson said. "She is going to come back (tonight) and we're going to have to be ready to handle her energy."

Lawson said after the Sun's 76-64 win Friday night that she doubted whether Indiana, a veteran team, was fazed much by the loss. They were facing a 1-0 deficit last week in the conference semifinals on the road in Game 2 and throttled Atlanta.

"They got 15 second-chance points, so we're going to take five of those second-chance points, we're going to hit four or five more of our shots, we're going to get to the free throw line two or three more times, and we're going to win the second game," Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. "That's how we're going to do it."

• The Sun worked out for about 90 minutes Sunday afternoon. The team bus departed Banker Life Fieldhouse right about the time the crowd from the Packers-Colts football game was leaving Lucas Oil Stadium Notables from Game 1: Renee Montgomery had a playoff career-high seven assists, Allison Hightower had five assists for the third straight playoff game and Tan White had a playoff career-best three made 3-pointers. Several Sun players kept asking for updates of the Minnesota-Los Angeles game.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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