The Connecticut Sun squad is on fire.
The seventh-seeded Sun suffocated the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces defensively and got 31 points from Jasmine Thomas to take Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals, 87-62, on Sunday. The other semifinal between the No. 2 Seattle Storm and No. 4 Minnesota Lynx will no longer take place on Sunday afternoon after inconclusive COVID-19 tests.
The Sun started the season losing five straight and in ugly fashion. They’re now running on the being disrespected grind and using the underdog card to tear through the playoffs. The Aces rolled through the regular season schedule behind the league’s MVP in A’ja Wilson, but have had an entire week off from games in a season that was played on an every-other-day schedule.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Tuesday.
Jasmine Thomas lights up for Sun
Thomas went nearly point-for-point with the entire Aces squad in the first half and kept it up in the third as the Sun widened the lead to 20 points throughout.
She scored 22 points in the first half while the Aces mustered a total of 25. After a 3-pointer made the lead 13 with 1:26 remaining to the break, the bench went wild. The Aces couldn’t recover.
She finished with a career-high 31 points in 23 minutes on the court. Thomas went 13 of 18 (the Sun team shot 50 percent at 34 of 68) and made 3 of her 6 3-pointers. She added three assists.
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 20, 2020
Alyssa Thomas added 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks as both a secondary scoring threat and the team’s defensive stalwart. Natasha Hiedeman added 14 points off the bench and hit 4 of her 5 3-pointers. It was a big addition for the Sun since the Aces have had a deeper, more reliable bench in the regular season.
DeWanna Bonner had a quieter day scoring eight points with eight rebounds, four assists, one steals and one block. She was only 2 of 12 from the floor, but the attention paid by the Aces allowed Jasmine Thomas to do work.
Sun defense shuts down Aces early
The Connecticut defense was solid from the tip in shutting down a Las Vegas offense that led the league in points. The Aces averaged 23 points in the first quarter over 22 regular season games; they scored 10 on Sunday. The 25 points at halftime was five points below their previous low of 30.
They forced the Aces to take the shots they wanted them to take, resulting in the team shooting 9 of 35 (25.7 percent) from the floor.
Wilson, the newly minted league MVP, scored 10 points after a slow start and Dearica Hamby, awarded her second consecutive Sixth Woman of the Year honor hours before the game, scored two baskets and missed all three of her 3-pointers.
Alyssa Thomas had a lot to do with that.
“I’m trying to let her know I’m gonna be here all night and nothing is going to be easy,” Thomas told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in the first half about defending Hamby.
The suffocating pressure that included five steals and four blocks in the first was exactly what helped propel the Sun past the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round. The eight points scored by the Sparks in the first quarter was also a season low for their club.
Rookie Beatrice Mompremier, who was drafted by the Sparks but released prior to the season, collected five defensive rebounds (six overall) and had three blocks to contribute to the Sun’s early defense.
MVP Wilson keeps Aces going
Wilson, the third-year star who won her first MVP this week, was the sole bright spot for the Aces. She scored a team-high 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and had nine rebounds, two blocks and numerous ball tips in the post. Jackie Young scored 17 off the bench, but no one else put up more than six.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 20, 2020
The team struggled to get anything and shot 23 of 68 overall (33.8 percent). The team relies on getting points in the paint, so the Sun forced them to take deeper shots. Las Vegas attempted 14 3-pointers, sinking only one of them.
It was tight in the first half with the Sun leading 14-10 at the break. Connecticut took a slightly larger lead by half, winning the quarter, 22-15, to lead by 11. The third quarter was even more dominating with Connecticut owning it, 28-16, and coasting through the fourth.
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