NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (Ticker) -- The 1-2 punch of Nykesha Sales and Lindsay Whalen has the Connecticut Sun one win from the WNBA Finals.

Sales scored 15 points, Whalen added 12 and both fueled a huge first-half run as the Sun defeated the New York Liberty, 61-51, to take a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

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Nykesha Sales scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half.
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"It feels good to go up 1-0, and with two games at home, we have to continue to play 40 minutes of basketball the way we know," Sales said. "We have to hit our shots, play defense and overall play as a team if we want to advance to the Finals."

On Wednesday, Sales and Whalen scored 27 of their 35 combined points in the first half as the Sun eliminated the Washington Mystics. This one looked very similar.

Sales' jumper gave Connecticut the lead for good at 10-8 midway through the first half. The Sun held a 12-11 edge before Sales and Whalen scored seven points each in a 17-2 surge.

"I'm surprised on the way we came out," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "We can't keep ourselves from digging a hole, we have to get off this bad habit of being down and trying to play catch-up ball."

A 3-pointer by Sales made it 29-13 with 1:41 left before New York closed to 29-17 at halftime. The Liberty cut the deficit to 41-37 but got no closer.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, made a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Whalen rebounded and put in a layup before a jumper by Asjha Jones rebuilt the lead to 10 points.

Katie Douglas scored 10 points and Wendy Palmer grabbed 10 rebounds for Connecticut, which can advance to the Finals for the first time with a home win Sunday or Tuesday in the best-of-three series.

"I'm happy the way we played by controlling the boards and making our shots," Whalen said. "We didn't let their shooters get in a rhythm, and when they made their second-half run, we held them off to win this game."

Crystal Robinson scored 17 points but was the only player in double figures for the Liberty, who were outrebounded, 39-25. In its first-round upset of defending champion Detroit, New York was badly beaten on the boards.