Atlanta, GA — The Connecticut Sun are the No. 3 team in the WNBA, their success not showing signs of being a fluke. Trailing the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks in the rankings – two titans in the WNBA – the Sun is one of the most feared teams in the league.
They perhaps have the most talented offense in the league. In fact, Connecticut is the highest scoring team this season with an average of 87.5 points per game – a total they blew past today. The Sun whip the ball from side to side, not running the offense through any specific player.
That offense continued to flourish Tuesday when the Sun defeated the Atlanta Dream 96-75 in McCamish Pavilion to win their sixth straight game.
Despite the beginning of the third quarter, one in which the Dream attempted to make a comeback, Connecticut maintained their lead. Atlanta was fighting, however, a more poised and under control team in the Sun weathered that storm and rose to the occasion to extend its lead again.
One player though, that gave the Sun problems throughout the game was Brittney Sykes. Sykes was constantly penetrating the defense for a bucket or would make a pass to a teammate. By the conclusion of the game, Sykes finished with a game-high 23 points, plus five assists.
“We had to get used to the pace and the way they play,” Sun forward Jonquel Jones said. “Their guards are really good at attacking and so we had to get adjusted to that.”
Sykes played well -- but the Sun was better. Connecticut saw six players score in double figures, and two of them came off the bench. Once again, forward Jonquel Jones was an unstoppable force with another double-double of 20 points, 13 rebounds. Following her was Jasmine Thomas, who made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points.
This year has been one in which the Sun has surprised the WNBA. In a league where the Lynx and the Sparks are the best – teams who have lethal go-to scorers like Maya Moore and Candace Parker – the Sun are an ensemble.
“That team [Connecticut Sun] is playing extremely good basketball,” Dream coach Michael Cooper said. “Our rotations were thrown off with Tiffany [Hayes] being out. When you’re playing against the most improved player in Jonquel Jones, you’ve got to compete against those forces.”
They have Jones, the modern forward who can post smaller players, run the floor and shoot a bit, too. They have Alyssa Thomas, a utility player whose versatility and playmaking ability allows Connecticut to play a free-flowing style. As if that wasn’t enough, the Sun also have Jasmine Thomas, a guard who is one of the best shooters in the league this season.
These three players are the foundation, and the rest of the team falls in. It makes for a beautiful offense.
The Sun hasn't gone to the WNBA playoffs since 2012, when they lost to the Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference finals. On Saturday, Connecticut (18-9) defeated the Dallas Wings 96-88, clinching a playoff spot, with the help of San Antonio defeating none other than, Atlanta, that same evening.
And they have the potential to jump the Sparks for the No. 2 spot, one that would give them a first-round bye. If Los Angeles (19-8) loses Wednesday against the Washington Mystics, they’ll still be one game ahead of the Sun for the second seed. Connecticut’s next game will be Friday at home against the New York Liberty. Every game down the stretch will matter for positioning purposes.
To call the Sun the hottest team in the league would be true. But saying that would also imply that they have struggled in the past; that’s true as well.
But now, Connecticut is amongst the WNBA’s elite -- and they have a chance to be regarded as the best. Don’t forget, the Sun is pretty good, too.