Washington - It will require more losing for the Connecticut Sun to achieve complete mathematical elimination from the 2013 WNBA playoffs. But the concepts of practicality and foresight suggest the events of Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center flushed any chance at the postseason.
The Sun fell 3.5 games behind Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a meet-the-new-loss, same-as-the-old-loss 74-63 gut-buster to the Mystics. The Sun (6-15) have a brutal stretch of games ahead, too - two with Atlanta this week and games against first-place Chicago and Minnesota next week.
Yet while the prospects for 2013 swirl the bowl with more ferocity, the Sun players and coach Anne Donovan may have left the building Sunday with resolve not necessarily characteristic of a 6-15 team.
Donovan solicited "a solution" from the players about her team's first-quarter disorder. Connecticut, which has suffered an alarming number of early deficits this season, was behind 23-7 after one period Sunday.
"I asked for feedback from them … and the team had a lot of things to share with me," Donovan said outside the locker room, inside of which she spent considerable time after the game.
Kelsey Griffin, who tied her career high with 17 points, was among the most vocal.
"Coach asked for a solution to our first quarters," Griffin said. "I voiced what I thought would help the team out and not just the first quarter, but in general. Getting down 23-7 gives our bench no chance. They're always having to help us out instead of us starting games off right."
Donovan, whose answers were mostly short after the game, said "maybe it's who we're starting. That's definitely something I will look at more closely."
Donovan saved her highest praise for rookie Kelly Faris, who didn't score, but played defense with the verve Donovan expects from all her players.
"Kelly went into the game and changed things defensively. She took a lot of pride in disrupting the flow of their offense and we got our offense to go off some of our stops," Donovan said. "Give Kelly Faris a ton of credit for how the game turned."
The game didn't turn until late in the third period, by which time the Sun trailed 54-31. But they used a 15-4 run to close the period and eventually got within 63-59 with 4:22 remaining. The Mystics, held to one field goal in the first six minutes of the fourth period, had a 68-63 lead with the ball and 1:48 remaining.
Washington kept its possession alive with two offensive rebounds, working the clock under a minute. Ivory Latta hit a three-pointer with 44.5 seconds left - and one on the shot clock - to all but end it.
"I was concerned that we were missing open shots and Tina (Charles) got her little roll going," Washington coach Mike Thibault said. "That obviously concerns you because I've been on the other side of that one."
Thibault alluded to his three years coaching Charles and the 10 years overall that he led the Sun to the playoffs eight times. Now he was on the other side Sunday, the day the music died for Connecticut in 2013.
"We were going against a team we're trying to stay ahead of and put them in a little bit tougher spot," Thibault said. "I didn't have any emotion about playing Connecticut. It was more about playing a team that's chasing us in the playoff race. … In all honesty, I haven't really thought about this game in particular as compared to any other. We're just trying to survive in the playoff race."
Charles led the Sun with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 18 points. Latta had 14 and Monique Currie scored 12.