Mohegan - What was once a playoff possibility for the Connecticut Sun, who certainly entered the season with the expectation of qualification, has become playoff inevitability.
And the Sun's eighth playoff berth in their 10 summers could come as early as Tuesday.
Connecticut's magic number to enter the 2012 WNBA playoffs is three, meaning any combination of Sun wins and losses by the Chicago Sky adding to three for the remainder of the season (both teams have 12 games remaining) ensures Mohegan Sun Arena will be illuminated for the postseason.
The Sun and Sky (8-14) play today at Mohegan Sun Arena (5 p.m., CPTV Sports) and Tuesday in Chicago. If the Sun win both games, they're in.
The Sun (17-5) also have a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference, by at least four games (three in the loss column) over second-place Indiana, pending the outcome of the Fever's late game at Phoenix Saturday night. If the Sun protect their lead, they'd earn their fourth regular season title, first since 2006, and homecourt throughout the conference playoffs.
Connecticut also will battle the champion of the Western Conference for potential home court in the WNBA Finals.
It sure beats two summers ago at this time when the Sun had already been eliminated from the playoffs for the second straight season.
The Sun will play their fourth game since the Olympic break without Asjha Jones, who is recovering from a strain to her Achilles' tendon. Sun coach Mike Thibault is hopeful Jones will return sometime during the four-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Chicago and also stops in San Antonio, Atlanta and Washington.
Connecticut is 2-1 in Jones' absence, helped along by reserve forward Kelsey Griffin, who has played her best stretch of the season. Griffin had five points, five rebounds and drew a charge in the 82-80 win over Tulsa in overtime this past Tuesday. She also scored a season-high nine points on Aug. 16 in New York.
"My job is to help this team any way I can and especially be ready when Coach T needs me," Griffin said. "The time off was really a good chance to clear my head and have some 'me' time."
Renee Montgomery, too, appears to have left her shooting disorder from the first half of the season in the rear view mirror. Montgomery, who had two crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the Tulsa game, has scored in double figures in all three games since the break. Montgomery was mired in a 7-for-42 shooting slump in late June and early July.