Published September 20. 2012 4:00AM
Mohegan - Some of the fans stood in appreciation Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, saluting a sight they hadn't witnessed in nine weeks: Asjha Jones returning to the floor for the Connecticut Sun.
Jones entered the game in the middle of the first period to an ovation, clearly the biggest news of the night, dwarfing even the Sun's 73-67 victory over Indiana.
The game was largely irrelevant, what with the Sun having clinched the Eastern Conference regular season title earlier this week. But even the notable distinction of regular season champion means little without a functional Jones next week in the playoffs.
It took Jones, who missed 13 games with a strained left Achilles' tendon, exactly 23 seconds to score. Jones' impressive rebound basket in traffic came before a strong move to the basket, completing a 2-for-2 from the field in 5 minutes, 17 seconds of game action.
"It's better than it was. It's not completely healed yet but it was a good start," Jones said. "I just wanted to play, be somewhat of a factor. So far, it's going better than planned. Today was good. I think I got up and down pretty good. Hopefully in another week or so, the stamina will be there."
The Sun (24-9) went 8-5 without Jones, the best evidence of why they were able to hold off Indiana and earn the top seed for next week's playoffs.
"We're not just one person," Jones said. "Kelsey (Griffin) has been waiting her turn the whole season. Her and Mistie (Mims) bring different things to the game I can't bring. The fact that we're playing so well afforded me more time off. I might have pushed it a little otherwise and maybe that wouldn't have been good for me."
The Sun led by as many as 17 until the shorthanded Fever cut the lead to five late in the fourth period. Indiana (20-11) played without guards Shavonte Zellous and Briann January, both of whom sustained injuries earlier this week. Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings didn't play the fourth period.
Still, Indiana, once down 44-27, cut it to 70-65. That was until Kara Lawson bailed out the Sun again - this is a recording - with a pair of big 3-pointers late in the game. Lawson finished with 23 points and six assists on 8-for-16 shooting.
Tina Charles, showered with chants of "MVP, MVP" from the crowd of 5,811, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. She became the fastest player in WNBA history to eclipse 1,100 career rebounds, needing 100 games. Yolanda Griffith had the previous record of 124.
Allison Hightower added 10 points for the Sun.
Douglas had 19 points and Catchings had 15. The Fever will play Atlanta in the playoffs next week.
The Sun will play either New York or Chicago beginning at Mohegan Sun Arena either next Thursday or Friday.
• The Sun announced their 10-player, all-decade team before the game, voted on by fans and media: Tan White, Renee Montgomery, Margo Dydek, Lawson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Katie Douglas, Lindsay Whalen, Nykesha Sales, Charles and Jones.