Alyssa Thomas’ early return from and Achilles injury is remarkable and adds to her legacy of toughness and incredible work ethic. On Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., she was back to contributing to the Connecticut Sun in a meaningful way with 15 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals in a 79-68 semifinal series-evening win over the Chicago Sky.
The Sun were down one entering the fourth quarter, but Thomas scored 10 points in a final frame that Connecticut won 21-9.
Briann January opened the fourth with a three that put the Sun up two and Thomas followed with a back-down basket on Stefanie Dolson, who is three inches taller than her. Thomas then got one of her patented floaters to go in perfectly — she was wide open and took her time. The game’s next basket was Thomas yet again, this time scoring on an aggressive drive on 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Candace Parker.
DeWanna Bonner made a key three that put Connecticut up nine with 3:59 to go and Thomas went on to score four-straight points from 3:29 to 1:50 that took the Sun lead from eight to 12. Thomas clearly put the team on her back and was the reason the Sun won after she didn't play during crunch time in Game 1. The Sun are no stranger to “Playoff AT,” who was responsible for the team’s underdog run to one game away from the Finals last year. Part of that run came after Thomas had a dislocated shoulder popped back in.
AT TORE HER ACHILLES 9 MONTHS AGO AND JUST BOOKMARKED A DOUBLE-DOUBLE.— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) October 1, 2021
Plus 30 in 24 minutes. You’re unreal, AT. pic.twitter.com/b5iK0pYiOB— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) October 1, 2021
Connecticut forward and WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones was held to just four points and the Sun were able to pull away while she was on the bench.
Connecticut of course faces the dilemma of its four best players all being forwards, though Bonner is often listed as a forward/guard. In late-game situations, the Sun have opted to go with two true guards on the floor, thus sitting one of their big four. Those two guards, Jasmine Thomas and Briann January, are important to have in the game because of their defense.
On Thursday it all worked out for the Sun, who got 15 points and eight boards from Bonner and double-digit scoring efforts from January (12 points), J. Thomas (12 points) and Brionna Jones (11 points). B. Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1 and J. Jones had 26 and 11.
Parker finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks for Chicago. Kahleah Copper had a decent game with 13 points, four assists, three steals and two blocks, but she, Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields (the Sky’s three main scoring options from the wing) went cold at the wrong times, shooting a combined 9-of-29 from the field. Quigley, the sharpshooter of the group, dragged their collective 3-point percentage down with a 1-of-6 effort. Chicago shot 39.7 percent from the field as a team and 26.9 percent from distance, both just below the marks for the worst teams in those respective categories this season.
It wasn’t an atrocious shooting performance but it was just bad enough to be bad. It was a sign that Connecticut’s defense was back on track after allowing 84 points in regulation in Game 1. The Sun allowed 69.9 points per game this year.
Courtney Vandersloot followed up her 12-point, 10-rebound, 18-assist triple-double with 10 points and six helpers in defeat.
The Sun held key advantages on the glass (39-26), on the offensive glass (12-6) and in second chance points (19-9).