The Connecticut Sun cleared one hurdle Friday and hope to lunge a step closer to another with Sunday's second game of a home-and-home set against the Washington Mystics.
Friday's 86-72 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena helped the Sun snap a seven-game winless streak against the Eastern Conference, and it mushed four teams within one game of each other in the Eastern Conference's Nos. 2-5 spots.
Sunday's matchup at the Verizon Center provides an opportunity for Connecticut (11-9) to pull into a tie for the East's fourth and final playoff spot with Washington (12-8). Indiana (12-9) and Chicago (13-9) are also in the mix.
Postseason thoughts seemed like wishful thinking during a six-game losing streak that lasted from June 30-July 19 and left the Sun at .500. But with three wins in four games, Connecticut can dream again.
Sun coach Anne Donovan became the WNBA's first female coach to win 200 games with Tuesday's 82-51 victory over San Antonio. Donovan - who joined Dan Hughes, Van Chancellor and current Mystics coach Mike Thibault in the 200-win club - described afterward how her team wiggled into position to make a late-season run.
"Clawing away. We're trying to scratch and claw our way to the postseason," Donovan told the team's official website. "We started as a good defensive team and surprised a lot of people with how good our chemistry was early with six new players. And I think we went into a little bit of a lull and we've got a learning curve.
"One thing that has been consistent is we have really fought. In almost every game it's been competitive for us, so not losing our confidence, I think, is the key in that lull that we had."
It helps to have All-Star guard Alex Bentley playing at a high level. Bentley poured in a career-high 31 points in Friday's win over Washington, bringing her scoring average to 15.1 - the highest of her three years in the league. Jasmine Thomas chipped in 15 points and eight assists for the Sun.
The Mystics never led Friday, but they have been much better at home. Washington is 7-3 at the Verizon Center and will go for its fifth straight win in the nation's capital.
"(We) try to get our fans behind us and make sure we keep winning at home and keep them coming to the games," center Stefanie Dolson said after a 66-63 win over San Antonio on Wednesday. "I think we've done that. I think we've played well at home."
Emma Meesseman was the only Washington player to score in double figures against the Sun, finishing with 15 points in the Mystics' second loss in three games after winning five straight.
Washington has won all five home meetings against Connecticut over the past three seasons, most recently riding Kara Lawson's season-high 24 points to an 89-82 victory July 19.