Mohegan - The narrative changes quickly sometimes in sports, evidenced by Sunday's developments at Mohegan Sun Arena, where the team with nine straight losses missing its best player tap-danced on the first-place team in the middle of a feel-good season.
And now the Connecticut Sun, whose lead in the Eastern Conference over Indiana is a not-as-comfortable 2.5 games, face the task of protecting the lead during an upcoming four-game road trip.
The Sun couldn't solve the Sylvia Fowles-less Chicago Sky and fell, 82-70, before 8,390 fans.
Connecticut turned it over 17 times. Points off turnovers in the second half were especially unseemly: Chicago 16, Connecticut 3.
The Sun failed to clinch a playoff spot, but can do so with a win in Chicago on Tuesday night.
"Obviously, a very disappointing loss," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "We just got outplayed in a lot of areas. Offensive rebounds (they gave up 12), turnovers that led to points and we shot the ball poorly for stretches."
Thibault said he doubted forward Asjha Jones (strained Achilles') would play on the road trip. After the formal news conference, he said Jones is making progress, but isn't ready to play.
"I just told them that you can't wait around for Asjha Jones to save you," Thibault said. "(Chicago) played without Tamera Young and Sylvia. Carolyn Swords, who had 14 points total in the last five games, gets 14 today. Sonja Petrovic who has had 12 points total in the last five games gets 10. Ruth Riley, who hasn't scored in the last five games gets six."
The Sky (9-14) used a zone to thwart the Connecticut offense, frequently sending double teams racing to Tina Charles, who finished with 15 points.
"When double and triple teams happen, we have to work on flashing out to get an open shot. When we had Asjha, she was a creator who could shoot and was a threat on offense who would ease the pressure on me," Charles said. "We have to work on getting better at that. We have to work on cleaning things up for Tuesday and doing what we normally do. We just can't be as sloppy as we were tonight."
Thibault said, "They know they can't play (Tina) straight up so they double and triple team her and turn her into a passer. They're daring other people to make shots. With Asjha out, they're daring Mistie (Mims) and Kelsey (Griffin) to make plays. That's no knock on Mistie or Kelsey, it's just that their role has changed."
The Sun led 55-48 in the third period before the Sky used a 19-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Chicago led by as many as 11 (73-62) before the Sun cut it to five, 75-70, with 2:34 left. They got no closer.
Swin Cash, who scored 14 points, made a pair of 3-pointers in the 19-2 run.
"I have been on the other side when the other team is down, but you have those players that are positive energy and always ready for their opportunity," Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. "We played against a team that does a really good job of scouting, so we had to make some adjustments and move some people around and it was nice to see us execute down the stretch."
Epiphanny Prince led the Sky with 15 points. Chicago made 10 of 25 3-pointers.
Allison Hightower led the Sun with 17 points. Kara Lawson had 15 and Renee Montgomery had 10, but with four turnovers.
"We've got out work cut out for us. It's a very difficult road trip. We're down," Thibault said. "Other teams are down players. You have to figure out a way to overcome it if you want to be an elite team."