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Bonner keeps Sun rolling into first place

DeWanna Bonner had her big post-Olympic break breakout, backing up her spoken commitment to bringing a championship mentality to the Connecticut Sun.

Minnesota Lynx v Connecticut Sun
DeWanna Bonner
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Amid Jonquel Jones’ MVP-caliber season, it may have been forgotten by some that her teammate DeWanna Bonner scored 48 combined points over the course of the Connecticut Sun’s first two games this season.

After the second of those games, which saw Bonner notch 27 points in her Sun debut at Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said:

“You just see how talented she is. ... Has been a little bit of an overshadowed superstar in this league. And our Sun fans are gonna be really entertained by her.”

Not that Bonner, a First Team All-WNBA player in 2015 and a second teamer in 2020, hadn’t already proven herself to be a great player, but all the hype was surrounding J. Jones entering this season and for Bonner to come out at age 33 and give a little something extra in those first two games said something.

Bonner, who turns 34 tomorrow, was ranked No. 19 in Swish Appeal’s preseason Top 30 while J. Jones came in at No. 6, which speaks to Bonner being an overshadowed superstar.

After the Sun lost the Commissioner’s Cup championship game on Aug. 12, both J. Jones and Bonner made their way to the podium for the postgame press conference and both were critical of their team’s play, saying it was not championship basketball.

The difference between J. Jones’ and Bonner’s words was that Bonner was speaking from championship experience. Although, J. Jones was phenomenal in a five-game Finals in 2019, the Sun fell to the Washington Mystics that year. Bonner on the other hand won a WNBA championship as a rookie and the Sixth Woman of the Year in 2009. She won it all again in 2014 as a starter who scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds over the final two games of a three-game Finals sweep. Both titles came while she was a member of the Phoenix Mercury.

Bonner plays a unique leadership role on the Sun as a player who has been there, done that. Briann January, a member of the 2012 champion Indiana Fever, is the only other player on the team that has a title and, while she is a starter and a phenomenal defender, she is not a member of the team’s big three like Bonner is.

On Thursday night at Mohegan, Bonner showed that she is willing to go all out to help the team she joined in 2020 win a championship, scoring a season-high 31 points to go along with 11 boards in an 82-71 Sun win that put them in first place by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Las Vegas Aces. Both teams are 17-6.

The Sun face the Aces in their next game on Tuesday, but Vegas cannot undo that tiebreaker as they can only finish 1-2 against Connecticut at best.

The Sun are in first place for the first time since June 8 when they were 8-2. That 8-2 start was surprising to most considering the team had lost superstar Alyssa Thomas to a torn Achilles before the season began. For Connecticut to have returned to first place at this late stage of the season, especially after a deflating blowout loss in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game that caused many to again count them out, is even more impressive.

Also impressive is the fact that the Sun’s last two wins have come against the Minnesota Lynx, who had been on a eight-game winning streak. On Thursday, Connecticut used a 16-5 run over the final 7:31 of the third to increase its lead to 14. Bonner scored eight points during that stretch. The Lynx cut it to five with 1:39 left in the fourth and 1:14 left in the fourth, but the Sun closed the game on a 6-0 run.

Connecticut has taken Minnesota’s spot as the hottest team in the league, having won five regular season games in a row dating back to before the Olympic break (so not counting the Commissioner’s Cup championship game). They are 3-0 since the break with three double-digit wins.

J. Jones added 20 points and seven rebounds to the winning cause on Thursday as she and Bonner did the bulk of the scoring. Brionna Jones chipped in with eight points and seven boards, including her 800th career point. Jasmine Thomas added six points and seven assists and January had seven points and four helpers.

Sylvia Fowles led the Lynx with 18 points and 11 boards while Layshia Clarendon had her best post-break performance with 15 points, eight assists and two steals. Star and Olympian Napheesa Collier got into early foul trouble and still played 34:49, but was held to 11 points.

Fourth-place Minnesota (13-9) was hoping to move within a game and a half of the Sun. Instead, they are now 3.5 games behind the two double-bye slots.

The Lynx forced 19 Connecticut turnovers and committed just 11. However, they attempted 15 less free throws and made 13 less. They were also outrebounded 31-22 and outshot 49.1 percent to 42.4 from the field. The Sun scored 13 second-chance points compared to just four for Minnesota.

Connecticut led by three after one and by six at the break.