UNCASVILLE — It's been two seasons since Mike Thibault became the former coach of the Connecticut Sun and the head coach of the Washington Mystics.
That's been enough time for some of the rough edges to smooth over; Thibault did spend time before Friday's game at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Sun chatting with Mitchell Etess, his former boss. Yes, time heals. But not all of the wounds have healed completely.
The Mystics ended a two-game losing streak with a 71-67 win over the Sun that clinched the fourth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot for Washington (16-17).
"I go back to the Pat Riley quote every time," Thibault said. "In this business there isn't a lot of time for joy. There is relief and misery. This is relief."
What it also did was guarantee the New York Liberty would finish fifth, meaning they will join the last-place Sun (12-21) in Thursday's draft lottery. But New York's pick belongs to the Sun, thanks to the Tina Charles deal, so the Sun will have approximately a 50 percent chance of landing the first overall pick again next April.
Ivory Latta and Emma Meesseman led four Mystics scorers in double figures with 16 points each. Alex Bentley led four Sun players in double figures with 15.
And after it was over, Thibault was asked if he felt any additional satisfaction about wrapping up his playoff spot on the floor where he spent 10 years working.
"Yes, there is a little extra [feeling], you can't help it," Thibault said. "We were used to making the playoffs here [in Connecticut], and when I left, I left the second-youngest team in the league behind. People talk about Connecticut being young now, but we were 25-9 with a young team [in his final season of 2012]. I would have loved to see it through.
"It's a little bit personal. Anyone who has been in the business a long time always has those teams [that inspire emotion]."
Douglas out for the season
The nights always seemed to end the same way for Katie Douglas: her feet sitting in a bucket of ice water after games. Playing in 412 games in 14 WNBA seasons and countless others overseas tend to take their toll on the extremities.
"She does what she has to do to take care of her body, but it really hasn't been a physical struggle for her this season. That's been a misnomer. She has learned how to get healthy and how to stay that way," Sun coach Anne Donovan said.
But it was her aching back, which required surgery during the offseason, that first sidelined the All-Star guard in the second overtime of last Sunday's win over Washington. Then it kept her out of Friday's rematch at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
And Douglas is not expected to play in Sunday's finale against Atlanta, either.
Douglas has already done what she could, averaging 13.2 points and leading the team in minutes played (1,040). She also is the team's top three-point producer (64) and free throw shooter (84.8) among those with more than 25 attempts. And she has been the guiding light in the young locker room.
"She is just a professional," Donovan said. "She has seen a lot of players come and go in her career [which began in 2001]. She has had a lot of experience with injury, as well. And you add her ability to deliver [the message], get along with people, her sense of humor. She has been a unique leader for us."
Ogwumike Sisters Honored
Chiney Ogwumike and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks, were named recipients of the July WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for their generosity and charitable efforts. Their parents are originally from Nigeria and maintain deep ties to the country. The sisters teamed with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to launch a fundraising competition that helps raise funds to support UNICEF programs, such as the Girls' Education Project, that focuses on education and empowerment for young women in Nigeria.
Allie Hightower, an All-Star in 2013, will not play in Sunday's finale because of her injured left knee. Her season consisted of 14 games, the last July 3 vs. Tulsa at the casino. She played in only four games after a 17-minute effort vs. Phoenix on June 12. Hightower also appeared in just 21 games last season. … Former Duke guard Chelsea Gray, the 11th overall pick in the draft, is with the team this weekend. She spent the season rehabbing in California from a fractured kneecap sustained during Duke's Jan. 12, 2014, victory over Boston College. She missed the large portion of her junior year with a dislocated kneecap. … Stefanie Dolson will be playing her first season overseas in Moscow with Mystics teammate Messeeman. Bria Hartey has signed to play in Hungary with the same team as former Notre Dame rival Kayla McBride.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun