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2019 WNBA Semifinals Analysis (Game 1): Led by Alyssa Thomas, Sun starters shine bright in 84-75 defeat of Sparks

The Connecticut Sun held off the Los Angeles Sparks to win a playoff game for the first time since 2012 and take a 1-0 semifinals lead.

Los Angeles Sparks v Connecticut Sun - Semi Finals - Game One
Alyssa Thomas led the Sun in their semifinals win with 22 points, including the team’s first nine points of the game.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun maintained their WNBA-best home-court advantage by defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 84-75 Tuesday for their first playoff win since 2012.

Although it wasn’t a straightforward affair, things started out that way, as Alyssa Thomas scored the Sun’s first nine points en route to a 13-point first quarter. Thomas went on to play the entire game, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Connecticut leaned heavily on its starting five, which was to be expected considering head coach Curt Miller’s reliance on his veterans combined with the playoff atmosphere. The rest of the starters each played 32 or more minutes, while the Sun’s five bench points all came from Bria Holmes.

The Sun’s transition play aided them greatly at the beginning of the game. However, the Sparks amped up their defense in the second quarter, limiting these chances (and, thus, the Sun’s scoring — just 16 points in the period) and even taking the lead going into halftime.

While the Sparks’ defense remained largely stalwart to start the second half, they did find themselves in foul trouble. Riquna Williams sat in the middle of the third quarter after picking up her fourth foul, and Chiney Ogwumike had to do the same near the beginning of the fourth quarter.

In the end, the Sun outscored the Sparks 47-35 in the second half to claim victory.

In addition to Alyssa Thomas’ 22 points, Jasmine Thomas scored 19 points and dished eight assists, Jonquel Jones scored 16 points and Courtney Williams added 15. Rounding out the scoring for the Sun starters was Shekinna Stricklen’s seven points.

Candace Parker was electric for the Sparks, leading all scorers with 24 points and adding 10 rebounds for one of two Los Angeles double-doubles. Nneka Ogwumike had the other, scoring 20 points (including her first three-pointer since Aug. 8) and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Parker also made her mark on a bevy of WNBA Playoffs milestones, moving into third on the all-time blocks list, third on the all-time steals list and fifth on the all-time rebounds list.

The Sparks didn’t get much from anyone else, though. Sydney Wiese impressed with eight points in 17 minutes and capitalized on her team-high four trips to the line with perfect accuracy, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added the team’s only non-Parker, non-Ogwumike 3-pointer on her way to seven points, but Ogwumike and Parker were the team’s major offensive power.

The Sun host once more tomorrow, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2), before the series moves to Los Angeles — where the Sparks had the same regular-season home-court advantage — beginning Sunday.