The 17-straight points the Connecticut Sun scored to open their game against the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night at STAPLES Center would essentially be the difference in an 18-point win (75-57) that clinched a trip to the WNBA Semifinals via a double-bye in the playoffs.
MVP frontrunner Jonquel Jones scored 10 of the first 17 points and finished the first quarter with six rebounds. She would finish with 21 and 14 on the night and the Sun (23-6) would gain their advantages at the free throw line and on the glass, going 26-of-29 from the stripe compared to LA’s 9-of-11 effort and outrebounding the Sparks 32-19. The 29 free throw attempts marked a season high for the Sun.
The game was pretty evenly matched in terms of field goal percentage (Connecticut won 44.2 to 41.8) and the Sun actually turned the ball over 22 times, two times more than LA.
J. Jones added three steals and two blocks while DeWanna Bonner notched 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Brionna Jones was second on the team with 15 points (7-of-8 from the field) and Jasmine Thomas was good for 10 points and three assists.
Nneka Ogwumike posted 12 points, seven boards, three helpers and two steals in defeat as the Sparks fell to 10-19. They are a game out of a playoff spot.
The Sun, who have now won 11 in a row, moved up to two games ahead of the idle Las Vegas Aces in the race for the No. 1 overall seed.
“We’ve been really pushing hard to stay in the present, one game at a time, all the seedings and all the byes would take care of themselves,” Miller said. “But we knew that we controlled our own destiny and we know what it means to get a double-bye — to know that you’re already in the semifinals is great to have. Now we just want to clean things up and continue to play great basketball and improve so we’re playing our best basketball come the playoffs.”
LA showed signs of life with an 8-2 run to close out the opening frame. It then lost the second by six and trailed by 17 at the break. It won the third by one and lost the fourth by two.
After the game, J. Jones was asked about the MVP race and offered the following:
“I mean I think this season has been a really good one for me. I’m happy to be in that conversation, but ultimately I know that I don’t vote for the MVP. So I just have to go out there, play my best and focus on the main thing: to win a championship. If I was to win the MVP and didn’t get a championship, it would feel like a failure to me this season. My main goal and the goal of the team is to go out there and worry about putting our best foot forward in the playoffs so that we can be a championship team at the end of the year.”
The Sun face the Phoenix Mercury in their next game, which is on Saturday. The Mercury have the second-longest win streak in the league at 10 games in a row.