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After 5-year absence, Connecticut clinches playoff spot

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In a heated race to the finish, the Connecticut Sun defeat the Dallas Wings 96-88 to clinch their first playoff spot since 2012. With all-around strong performances from the Sun’s roster, including Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, and Courtney Williams, Connecticut also lengthens its winning streak at home to eight games.

Connecticut Sun, Alyssa Thomas Chris Marion/Getty

Uncasville, CT The Connecticut Sun clinched a playoff spot in tonight’s relentless game and crucial victory over the Dallas Wings, 96-88, in combination with the San Antonio Stars defeating the Atlanta Dream, 84-68. This forecast was the Sun’s perfect storm.

“It’s something that people probably didn’t believe in when the season started, but we knew it, ”stated Jonquel Jones about the playoff clinch. “So I think that’s all that matters. And once our fans and coaches are behind us, that’s all we need.”

What made this game so important? Well, both the Connecticut Sun and Dallas Wings had something to prove going into tonight’s matchup.

Dallas just came off of a tough one-point loss in overtime to the Phoenix Mercury. Over their last eight games, the Wings record was four wins and four losses, searching desperately to put a winning streak together and end the season on a high.

With even more on the line, the Sun had the opportunity to accomplish another major feat during this successful year. With a win, and an Atlanta Dream loss, they would secure a playoff spot for the first time in 5 years. They also were out to defend their home court and turn their win streak at Mohegan Sun into eight straight games.

As if that were not enough motivation, Connecticut was furthermore looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Wings, falling 96-82 in their first meeting in Dallas.

But this Connecticut Sun team is different from when they last met, and the Wings saw why with their cohesive synergy.

Both the Sun and the Wings played hard in the first quarter. For the Wings, Glory Johnson and Skylar Diggins-Smith started the show. As for the Sun, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams carried the team early. To turn it up a notch, Connecticut put in Jasmine Thomas for the first time since she injured her left ankle in the Sun’s victory over Phoenix. Her energy helped the Sun finish the quarter leading, 28-22.

And while Connecticut had the early momentum, the Wings showed plenty of fight and resolve, closing the game and evening the score to 40-40 midway through the second quarter. Dallas’ efforts weren’t enough to stop the Sun from taking the lead at the end of the half, 55-48.

The Sun’s budding superstar, Jonquel Jones, dominated the first half, garnering her third double-double before halftime this season — which is the most in the WNBA, and also her sixth double-double in a row.

Dallas punched Connecticut in the third, fighting back, tying the game up 64-64 with less than five minutes to go. Dallas’ Allisha Gray and Johnson did something they’ve done all season: exuding an infectious, undeniable amount of energy to the court.

Johnson hit, yet again, another double-double, while Gray scored nine points in the frame alone, and finished the game with a career high of 21 points. Between Gray and Johnson, they totaled a combined 39 points for the Wings at the end of the third.

With so much on the line for both teams, a fight to the finish was inevitable. With the crowd at a fever pitch, visibly feeling the intensity from the game, the Wings took a one-point lead over the Sun briefly. But Connecticut quickly tipped the momentum in their favor, as they got a quick layup to regain the lead. That layup was the final tipping point, as the Sun never relinquished the lead again, finishing the game strong, thus cementing the win and a long awaited playoff berth.

“Dallas is a physical team, that’s their game,” stated Alyssa Thomas. “They try to take people out with that type of mentality, but we’re tough, we’re able to take it and we just kept playing through everything.”

As the Sun stepped off the court, the Atlanta Dream and the San Antonio Stars were concluding their game. The perfect storm fell into place after the Sun’s victory, when the Dream fell to the Stars and ultimately clinched the Sun’s 2017 playoff spot.

“We knew it was going to take some time with a young team, and ultimately we’re excited,” expressed Connecticut’s head Coach Curt Miller after the playoff spot was clinched. “That locker room certainly has bigger goals, so now we'll fight for a position in a very, very important potential bye for the four teams that get byes in the first round.”

As fate would have it, both Connecticut and Dallas face the Atlanta Dream as their next opponent. The Sun will play away versus the Dream on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The Wings tip off at home against the Dream Saturday, Aug, 19.

#PLAYOFF BOUND! The Connecticut Sun are still hot, as they take down Dallas -- and clinch a playoff berth! #WNBA #Playoffs

Posted by Swish Appeal on Saturday, August 12, 2017