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Comparing the centers of the 2019 WNBA Finals: LaToya Sanders (Mystics) vs. Jonquel Jones (Sun)

Jonquel Jones is one of the best all-around players in the WNBA, but LaToya Sanders has been more than up to the task of defending formidable opponents this postseason.

Washington Mystics v Connecticut Sun
Jonquel Jones (left) is the Sun’s top scorer and the WNBA’s leading rebounder. Can LaToya Sanders (right) use her defensive skill to keep Jones from dominating the Finals?
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The regular-season series between the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun offered, team-wise, three rather inconsistent showings: The Sun blew out the Mystics, then won by a lot less and finally got blown out in a season-worst outing.

But the regular-season series between Mystics center LaToya Sanders and Sun center Jonquel Jones was a little more straightforward: Jones had the upper hand in nearly every way all season long.

Season stats: LaToya Sanders vs. Jonquel Jones

Per-game stats LaToya Sanders Jonquel Jones
Per-game stats LaToya Sanders Jonquel Jones
Points 6.1 14.6
Rebounds 5.5 9.7
Blocks 1.4 2
Assists 1.9 1.5
Minutes 23.6 28.8
Personal fouls 2.1 2.8
FG% (season) 50.6 44.8
FT% (season) 89.2 81.8

As big women who average less than 30 minutes a game, you’re of course going to see some good battles down low, but they’ll come less frequently than the backcourt matchups. This results in more situations where these players can score or draw fouls against reserves, or in simple mismatches with other starters.

The Mystics and Sun clearly also rely on their centers in different areas. Sanders, at 6-foot-3, is statistically more similar to a forward like teammate Emma Meesseman than to the 6-foot-6 Jones. Despite being on the smaller end of centers in the league, Sanders’ defense has stood out this season.

But Sanders will again face a difficult task against the Sun, just like everyone who faces their venerable center. Jones, Connecticut’s leading scorer and the league’s top rebounder, averaged 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game against Washington this season (and shoots threes regularly, to boot). While the Mystics can try to fall back on their league-best offense, limiting Jones in some way is still essential to ensuring they can muscle their way to a win.

Sanders’ greatest triumph against Jones came in the teams’ most recent meeting on June 29, which the Mystics won 102-59. Jones scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds; however, Sanders not only out-rebounded Jones, but also scored all four of her points off trips to the free throw line courtesy of Jones fouls.

Jones’ propensity to put up big numbers regularly could be tested this series with so many other players on both sides experiencing a playoffs rise, but her ability to play big minutes will aid her and the Sun greatly. Both centers have had standout games in above-average minutes this postseason, with Jones shining in a 27-point, 13-rebound performance against the Los Angeles Sparks and Sanders tallying 17 points and three blocks against the Las Vegas Aces.

From the opening tip — of which the Mystics have controlled two of the three against the Sun this season in this initial meeting of the centers, by the way — to the final clutch minutes, and the whole battle down low in between, this meeting between one of the league’s most reliable players and one of the most steadfast defenders is might not be the highlight matchup, but it’s sure going to be good.