Carey sets her sights on the WNBA title
By all accounts, the pressure is on the WNBA's Connecticut Sun right now, as the Connecticut franchise is the favorite entering the 2006 playoffs. And, by all accounts as well, the Sun players, including former University of Texas standout point guard Jamie Carey, wear that pressure in a positive way as they open their first-round playoff series Friday (August 18) against the Washington Mystics at the MCI Center in D.C. (6 p.m. Central on NBA TV).
For Carey and her teammates, their sights are set on finishing 2006 one step further than the last two summers, when they were the WNBA championship runnerup both years.
Last year, the Monarchs defeated the Sun in the 2005 WNBA finals, three games to one. A year previous, the Seattle Storm upended Connecticut in the best-of-three game championship round, 2-1.
While a thin bench was the Achilles heel of Connecticut the previous seasons, this time Connecticut's biggest strength will be a rotation that went nine-deep for most of the regular season.
``Our bench has been much improved over a year ago," said Sun head coach Mike Thibault during a playoff press conference earlier in the week. ``We've been able to give them all more minutes. They've won us some games. All of that group have taken turns filling different roles for us throughout the course of the season. We've needed it. If people are getting banged up as we head into the playoffs, we're going to need it some more. I don't know that you'll see some of these players playing the long minutes that they do in the regular season, but they're going to have a role to play at some point during the playoffs."
And that group includes Carey, who has made the most of her time with the Sun this season.
"The playoffs have a feeling so similar to March Madness, yet so different. Having played in the Finals last year, it is safe to say that I now have the playoff bug," noted Carey in her on-line diary entry on the Connecticut Sun's website. "I love how it feels, the atmosphere, the intensity; how all of the hard work put into the game is shown, exposed and displayed... Playing Washington in the first round of playoffs will present a challenge, as everyone in playoffs is deserved of the spot. They are a talented group who has shown much success throughout the season."
As have Carey and her teammates.
The Sun are the hottest team entering the playoffs, going 12-1 in their last 13 regular season contests. Connecticut went a league-best 26-8 in the regular season to again clinch the Eastern Division title for the second year in a row. The second-best record in the WNBA belonged to Western Conference champion Los Angeles (25-9).
In the Eastern Conference, Detroit (23-11), Indiana (21-13) and Washington (18-16) made the playoffs, finishing second, third and fourth, respectively, behind the Sun. In the Western division, LA was followed by defending champion Sacramento (21-13) while Houston, Seattle and Phoenix all finished at 18-16, and in a tie-breaker, Houston and Seattle took the final two divisional playoff spots.
2006 WNBA Playoffs- Eastern Conference Semifinal Schedule (best-of-three series)