In the Connecticut Sun’s three-game demolition of the Los Angeles Sparks, point guard Jasmine Thomas played some of the best basketball of the career, averaging over 18 points and more than six assists per game. Most notably, she tallied a season-high 29 points in Game 3, converting five of her eight 3-point attempts. She also registered a defensive rating of 75.7 in the series, the best mark of the members of the Sun who played significant minutes.
If Thomas maintains this level of play in the 2019 WNBA Finals, the Washington Mystics best watch out!
Of course, the Mystics have much confidence in their point guard, Kristi Toliver. Despite missing the previous six weeks of regular-season action due to a knee injury, Toliver was a difference maker in Washington’s semifinals victory over the Las Vegas Aces. At times, Toliver clearly was limited, often struggling to move her feet on defense and sometimes lacking the needed strength on her deep threes. Yet, these uneven moments were more than matched by her enduring ability to hit the big shot at the right moment.
In the Finals, will Toliver’s timely shotmaking give the Mystics the edge? Or, will Thomas’s overall excellence advantage the Sun?
Unless Toliver’s conditioning demonstrably improves before Sunday, Thomas seems poised to win this matchup. On offense, she should not hesitate to attack Toliver, drive to the hoop or stop-and-pop from the free throw line. Thomas’ newfound willingness to shoot more threes also will make things difficult for Toliver.
On the other end, Thomas, a member of the All-Defensive First Team, will make Toliver work. Thomas’ defensive intelligence and physical advantages can prevent Toliver and, in turn, the Mystics from easily moving the ball and establishing an offensive flow. Yes, Toliver will make some tough shots, but, in the aggregate, Thomas should show why she is the best two-way point guard in the game.
In a Finals that may well go five games, head coaches Curt Miller and Mike Thibault will also have to turn to their reserve point guards. Both Connecticut’s Natisha Hiedeman and Washington’s Shatori Walker-Kimbrough play with a quickness and confidence that, even in limited minutes, could swing a game, and maybe the series. In the Sun’s Game 3 win over the Sparks, Hiedeman swished a pair of threes that snuffed out any hope LA had for a comeback. While Walker-Kimbrough did not see much action against the Aces, she is integral to the Mystics’ emotional fabric, suggesting she could come up big if called upon.