Phoenix – Tina Charles and the short-handed Connecticut Sun worked hard to stave off playoff elimination on Saturday night at US Airways Arena.
But even a first-half double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) by the reigning WNBA MVP could not prevent the Phoenix Mercury from pulling out a 76-68 victory that officially ended Connecticut’s playoff hopes.
Candice Dupree (22 points, eight rebounds) shook off a 1-for-9 start, making eight of her last 10 attempts, and familiar Sun killer DeWanna Bonner scored 14 of her 22 points in the second half as Phoenix sent Connecticut (7-22) to its seventh straight loss.
In a game that featured 12 lead changes and 13 ties, the Mercury (14-13), it was a Bonner 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer with 4:27 left that signaled the beginning of the end for the Sun. That began a 14-4 run to close the game, and the season for Connecticut.
“I thought we made some big mistakes down the stretch, gave up that offensive board that was a big difference,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “We had some careless turnovers in the second quarter. When we turned it over they made us pay.”
Charles finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for Connecticut, and Tan White had 14 points. Iziane Castro Marques came off the bench to score 11.
Outscored by a combined 51-24 in the first quarter of their two previous games on this West Coast swing – losses at Los Angeles and Seattle – the Sun found themselves down 21-14 after the first quarter Saturday night.
But the Sun opened the second quarter 6-0 run, and closed with a 13-6 run that included a banked in three from 27 feet at the buzzer by White. That shot gave Connecticut just their ninth lead at halftime – 37-36 – all season.
White picked up where she left off with a 3-pointer that made it 40-36 with one minute gone in the third quarter, and Charles pushed the lead to 42-36 on a tough fadeaway jumper over Brittney Griner. The big rookie scored just eight seconds into the game, but had just four points and five rebounds early in the third quarter.
But Bonner, who has had some huge games against Connecticut during her career, had nine points on 4 of 4 shooting in the first five minutes of the third quarter as the Mercury regained the lead, 49-45.
Connecticut would rally through the rest the quarter, and well into the fourth quarter before Bonner hit her three-pointer.
Looking for its fourth straight win in Phoenix, the Sun were without Kelly Faris (foot), Allison Hightower (knee) and Kara Lawson (knee).
“You know it is hard being 7-22,” Charles said. “It is really hard but we just have to go out and personally go out there and take care of our home and hold on out there.”
The Sun are off until Friday when the play host to the Washington Mystics at Mohegan Sun Arena.