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20080922/NYLCON
Liberty-Sun Preview
By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Writer

The Connecticut Sun haven't made things easy for themselves in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Liberty.

Even if they haven't played their best, they're still alive heading into a decisive Game 3.

A spot in the conference finals will be on the line Monday at Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Sun will try to extend the Liberty's trouble advancing past the first round.

Connecticut fell behind by 13 points after the first quarter of Game 1 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden and could never recover, losing 72-63. That left the Sun with a pair of must-win games at home if they hoped to advance to the East finals for the fifth time in six years.

It looked like Connecticut would cruise toward Game 3 with ease on Saturday, as it led by 10 after one quarter and had a 13-point cushion early in the fourth. The Liberty battled back, though, cutting their deficit to one after a 3-pointer from Loree Moore with 1:20 to play.

In the final minute, Tamika Whitmore grabbed one of her game-high six rebounds and sank two free throws to give the Sun a 73-70 win and force Monday's deciding contest.

"It was a heck of a win, but it was a lot tougher than it had to be,'' said Connecticut coach Mike Thibault, named the league's coach of the year earlier Saturday. "For whatever reason, we thought that we'd start doing things a different way. If I had the answer to why we did that, I'd sell it - give up coaching and make a lot of money.''

The Sun won Game 2 despite shooting just 36.9 percent from the field, even worse than their 37.5 clip in the series opener. Asjha Jones, who led Connecticut with 17.0 points per game in the regular season, had 16 on Saturday but shot just 6-of-18.

Lindsay Whalen, however, had a solid all-around effort after going just 2-for-6 and scoring six points in Game 1. Whalen, the WNBA's assist leader (5.4 per game) in the regular season, had 15 points, four assists and five rebounds on Saturday.

The Liberty, meanwhile, head into Monday's deciding game with some momentum after hitting 6-of-7 3-pointers during their nearly-successful rally Saturday.

"We made a valiant comeback and had a chance to win it. That's all you can ask for,'' New York coach Pat Coyle said. "But we'll come out a different team Monday night.''

The Liberty, who haven't been past the first round since 2004, are 21-for-48 (43.8 percent) from 3-point range in this series, led by Shameka Christon (7-for-11) and Catherine Kraayeveld (6-for-13).

The home team has won the last four decisive Game 3s in WNBA conference semifinals since Houston won at Seattle in 2005.

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