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Preview: Sun need to get back on track mentally after underwhelming performance vs. Aces

The Connecticut Sun can hardly be blamed for missing a beat a few games into the absence of Brionna Jones. But they will need to get back on track quickly if they want to continue to compete with the New York Liberty in the standings.

Connecticut Sun v Las Vegas Aces
Tiffany Hayes will look to bounce back after a game in which she was ejected for jokingly implying that the refs were accepting money from the opposing team.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun’s first two games without Brionna Jones were successful. They defeated the Minnesota Lynx 89-68 on June 22 and the Chicago Sky 96-72 on June 25. They then even had a pretty good showing against the New York Liberty on June 27, with Alyssa Thomas recording a triple-double and DiJonai Carrington going for a career-high 23 points in an 89-81 loss.

Then came the juggernaut that is the Las Vegas Aces this past Saturday. Vegas went on a 19-0 run from five seconds remaining in the second to 4:36 remaining in the third to build a 28-point lead, led by at least 18 the rest of the way and won by 18. For the first time, it seemed like Jones’ absence really got to the Sun. They were not only overmatched by the Aces on paper; they seemed to lack their usual mental energy, something that had always seemed to allow them to overachieve and beat more talented teams in the past.

Connecticut (12-5, third place) will look to bounce back mentally Thursday night when it hosts the Seattle Storm (4-12, 11th place) at 7 p.m. ET. Thursday morning, the Sun updated their injury report to include Carrington, who will be out with a non-COVID illness. She is obviously an important puzzle piece who comes off the bench and averages 8.8 points per game. It will be up to stars Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Tiffany Hayes, the last of whom was ejected from the Aces game for making a money-making motion with her fingers to jokingly imply that the refs were being paid by Vegas, to make up for the absences of Jones and Carrington.

Seattle recently re-signed Gabby Williams after her overseas commitment ended. Williams will be the only Storm player to miss Thursday’s contest, as she has not fully recovered from a concussion.

The Storm have lost three in a row and five of their last six. In the six games before that, they were 3-3 and appeared to be effectively battling back from an 0-4 start.

Seattle was 11th in our preseason power rankings. It has proven to be more than Jewell Loyd this season though (our reason for putting it 11th was a lack of talent behind Loyd). Ezi Magbegor joins Loyd as a Storm All-Star representative, averaging 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks on the season. She has added a 3-point shot to her game and is shooting a very good 36.1 percent from beyond the arc. In fact, all of the Storm’s Top 5 scorers are shooting better than 36 percent from distance. All have plenty of makes. Seattle is third in the WNBA in 3-point percentage (36.8).

Ivana Dojkic has been playing well; she leads the Storm in assists per game with 3.6 and is third in scoring (8.7 points per game). Sami Whitcomb has had some quiet stretches but is averaging 16.5 points over her last four outings. Kia Nurse of course has All-Star potential and is having a solid though not spectacular season. Then there’s rookie Jordan Horston, who has had a promising start to her career.

The Storm are going to battle and the Sun have more than just Loyd to worry about.

Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm
Ivana Dojkic
Photo by Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images

Game information

Seattle Storm (4-12) vs. Connecticut Sun (12-5)

When: Thursday, July 6 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT

How to watch: Prime Video

Storm injury report: Gabby Williams (out; return to play)

Sun injury report: Brionna Jones (out; Achilles), DiJonai Carrington (out; non-covid illness)