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Fever-Sun Preview

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Fever-Sun Preview

The Connecticut Sun made quick work of their first-round opponent. The Indiana Fever are hoping the Sun's lengthy layoff heading into this best-of-three Eastern Conference finals series will play to their advantage as they were just pushed to the limit.

Meeting in the postseason for the first time in five years, Connecticut and Indiana will play Game 1 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena as both teams continue their bid for a first WNBA title.

Making their second consecutive playoff appearance, the top-seeded Sun swept New York in the semifinals for their first postseason series win since defeating Washington in the opening round of 2006.

Tina Charles, the league MVP and top rebounder with 10.5 per game, averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 boards against the Liberty, while Asjha Jones totaled 30 points and 17 boards and Kara Lawson added 23 and 15, respectively, while making six 3-pointers in 14 attempts.

"Our three All-Star players stepped up," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after Saturday's 75-62 Game 2 victory. "It was terrific, but we had great performances from a lot of people."

The Fever, the No. 2 seed, are well aware of the Sun's talent after losing three of four meetings in the regular season, including both in Uncasville, but they're hoping Connecticut won't be able to carry over the momentum.

"They're a fine team," Indiana coach Lin Dunn told the team's official website. "They're going to start at home. They're going to be rested. Let's just hope that they are over-rested.

"I think, at the end of the day, if we can defend at a high level, continue to do what we've done on the boards and be balanced in our scoring, then we have a chance to steal this series."

The Fever make their second consecutive conference finals appearance - and fifth in eight years - after knocking off Atlanta, the two-time defending East champs. The only home team to lose its playoff opener, Indiana ended the Dream's five-game home winning streak in Game 2 on Sunday before advancing with Tuesday's 75-64 victory.

Seven-time All-Star forward Tamika Catchings, the defensive player of the year, will likely be a key to this series, as will former Sun Katie Douglas, but the Fever will need contributions from others if they're going to reach their second WNBA finals and first since 2009.

Dunn said Briann January is playing as well as she's ever seen after the fourth-year guard averaged 16.7 points and 5.0 assists in the opening round. Fever forward Erlana Larkins, who hadn't started until two games left in the regular season, also picked a good time to step up her game, totaling 43 points and 32 rebounds against Atlanta.

"In the years past, it's always been Tamika having to spearhead that blue-collar mentality," Douglas said after Larkins totaled 16 points and 20 boards in Game 3. "And I think it takes a little pressure off of Tamika. (Larkins) can go down there and bang. It really loosens things up for us."

Having former Sun guard Erin Phillips in the starting five could do the same thing. A 43.8 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season, Phillips was added to the starting lineup after Game 1 - as was Larkins - and hit 3 of 5 from long range in the series while scoring 20 points.

Lawson averaged 18.3 points and hit 10 of 27 from beyond in the arc against Indiana in the regular season, while Charles scored 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in those contests.

Jones scored 30 in the first three games against Indiana in 2012 before chipping in with four off the bench in a 73-67 home win Sept. 19 - her first game after missing 14 with a strained Achilles' tendon.

This is the third postseason series between these clubs, and first since Indiana won the 2007 conference semifinals.

The Sun swept the Fever to reach the WNBA finals in 2005 to make their most recent finals appearance.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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