After stumbling to an 0-5 start in 2020, the Connecticut Sun have started the 2021 WNBA season 5-0. Can they extended their season-opening unbeaten streak to 6-0?
Tuesday night, they complete the final leg of their three-game west coast road trip, meeting the Seattle Storm at Angel of the Winds Arena at 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network).
Even though the Sun are missing their engine in Alyssa Thomas, head coach Curt Miller has the Sun machine humming, powered by its starting five of Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner, Brionna Jones, Jasmine Thomas and Natisha Hiedeman. (Although, it will be assistant coaches Brandi Poole and Chris Koclanes at the helm, as Miller is suspended for his insensitive comments about Liz Cambage during the Sun’s victory over the Las Vegas Aces.) Connecticut currently sports the WNBA’s best offense (107.4 rating), second-best defense (91.0 rating) and best overall net rating (16.4).
J. Jones and Bonner have been as spectacular as expected. B. Jones and J. Thomas have been as solid expected. Hiedeman, more unexpectedly, has scaled up into a starter-quality contributor. After averaging 18.6 minutes per game off the bench last season, Hiedeman has played 33 minutes per game this season, starting in place of J. Thomas or Briann January. Her 2.2 threes per game have added further juice to the potent Sun offense, while her two steals per game contribute to Connecticut’s suffocating defense.
Swaggy startin’ this game off with a BANGGG pic.twitter.com/i3nlYsE4YV— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) May 22, 2021
For all the Sun’s impressive numbers, overcoming the Storm still will be a tough task. Seattle claims the league’s second-best offense (106.1 rating) due to the super-scoring duo of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. Stewart is averaging a league-leading 25.8 points per game, while Loyd has scored 21.8 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the league.
Tuesday’s earlier action features two rematches — Washington Mystics versus Indiana Fever (7 p.m. ET) and Atlanta Dream versus Chicago Sky (8 p.m. ET). On Sunday, the starting frontcourt of Teaira McCowan and Jessica Breland propelled the Fever past the Mystics for their first win of the season. Last Wednesday, the Sky, sans Candace Parker, Allie Quigley and Azurá Stevens, survived a furious second-half comeback by the Dream. To reverse these results, Washington must successfully stymie Indy’s bigs, while Atlanta will need to bring a 40-minute aggressive effort against a still-depleted Chicago team.
Washington Mystics (1-3) vs. Indiana Fever (1-4)
When: Tuesday, May 25 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN
How to watch: Monumental or fever.wnba.com
Key to the matchup: Per Stathead, Tina Charles is on pace to post the highest scoring season by a player 32 years old or older. Through four games, Charles is scoring 25.3 points per game. However, the new Mystics’ prolific offensive production has not been especially efficient. Of more concern, it is not translating to team success, as Washington has an offensive rating of 95.0 and a net rating of minus-5.3. It is time for head coach Mike Thibault to activate some of his offensive wizardry. This second-straight matchup with Indiana, the league’s second-worst defensive team (102.5 rating), presents the perfect opportunity for DC to experiment and establish an offensive groove.
Mystics injury report: Natasha Cloud (questionable; ankle), Elena Delle Donne (out; back)
Fever injury report: Jantel Lavender (questionable; foot), Bernadette Hatar (out; ankle), Aaliyah Wilson (out; foot)
Atlanta Dream (1-2) vs. Chicago Sky (2-1)
When: Tuesday, May 25 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or The U
Key to the matchup: Will Chicago’s size and length again allow the Sky to prevail? Or, can Atlanta sustain their small-ball attack? Expect this game to be another contrast in styles. Last week, the Sky’s Ruthy Hebard and Astou Ndour-Fall both had their way inside, posting double-doubles. The return of Azurá Stevens will augment Chicago’s interior advantage. However, the Dream proved that they can counter the Sky’s size, as they used their speed and aggression to force the Sky into 24 turnovers, including swiping 17 steals. More burn for Crystal Bradford, in combination with increased comfort for Tiffany Hayes, could help Atlanta escape the Windy City with a win.
Dream injury report: Cheyenne Parker (out; quarantine), Shekinna Stricklen (probable; knee)
Sky injury report:, Candace Parker (out; ankle), Allie Quigley (out; hamstring), Stefanie Dolson (out; temporary suspension)
Connecticut Sun (5-0) vs. Seattle Storm (3-1)
When: Tuesday, May 25 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA
How to watch: CBS Sports Network, NESN+ or JOETV
Key to the matchup: Through four games, the Storm have surrendered a league-worst 43.0 points per game in the paint. Of course, a pair of games against the Las Vegas Aces will inflate those numbers. Nevertheless, the Sun also have the personnel needed to feast inside. Not only can Jonquel Jones do damage on the block, but both DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas also can slice through the paint for a bucket at the basket. The Sun’s improved 3-point shooting — from 31.2 percent last season to 39.8 percent this season — can stretch out the Storm defense, further opening up the paint for easy scoring opportunities.
Sun injury report: Briann January (out; ankle), Alyssa Thomas (out; Achilles)
Storm injury report: Katie Lou Samuelson (out; temporary suspension)