Six days without a Connecticut Sun game left me feeling quite bereft, but luckily there were two games this weekend to make up for the long absence. With wins on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon, the Sun (and Sun fans) can head into the Olympic break feeling hopeful and excited for August.
On Friday night, the Sun faced the Atlanta Dream, who had gone 2-9 in their last 11 games and were reeling from an unresolved conflict that left Dream star Chennedy Carter suspended from the team. (You can read speculation about Carter’s suspension all over Twitter, as well as in this piece by Spencer Nusbaum for The Next.) The Dream certainly could have used Carter’s dynamic scoring and playmaking ability on Friday night. The Sun beat the Dream 84-72 and clinched a spot in the Commissioner’s Cup final in the process.
Though the Dream made it tricky for the Sun to score, the Sun found a way. The team’s three all-stars, Jonquel Jones (24 pts/16 rebounds), DeWanna Bonner (22 pts/5 rebounds/4 assists/2 steals), and Brionna Jones (16 pts/9 rebounds/4 assists), carried the offense. But it was on the defensive end that the Sun shone (sorry! It’s true!). Briann January had a ridiculous +24 point differential while she was in the game, more than anyone else on the team, and she held all-star Courtney Williams to only 8 points, making January’s value to the team abundantly clear.
The Sun’s defensive performance was consistent with how the Sun have played all season: with a defense-first mentality. Over the course of the first half of the season, the Sun allowed their opponents fewer points per game (73.2) than anyone else in the league.
Against the Liberty on Sunday, the Sun continued to let their stifling defense lead them to victory. The Sun won the game 71-54, and although Jonquel Jones continued to stuff the stat sheet (more on that in a second) and pad her resume as an MVP-candidate, it was the team’s defense that stood out. The Sun held the Liberty to only 28 points at the half; the Liberty barely doubled that total over the course of the game. There was a stretch of almost eight minutes during which the Liberty didn’t score a single point, and over the course of the game, the Liberty shot only 30.4% from the floor. Jasmine Thomas, Briann January, and DeWanna Bonner were particularly disruptive to the Liberty’s offense, January with three steals. That trio helped hold the Liberty’s two best scorers, all-star Betnijah Laney and three-point-contest-foe Sami Whitcomb to 3 and 5 points respectively, by far their lowest scoring games of the season.
Against the Liberty, Jonquel Jones was playing on another level. She finished the game as the Sun’s leader in scoring (17 pts), rebounding (17!) and assists (5), finishing the game with her 10th double-double of the season. On Wednesday, she’ll compete against Team USA as a WNBA all-star, and in the newly introduced three-point contest as well. Currently JJ is shooting 44.4% from deep, the second best percentage in the league among players with at least 50 3-point attempts (thanks to HerHoopsStats for the statistic).
It’ll be a long time before the Sun suit up and take the floor again as a team (they next play the Dallas Wings on August 15th). Curt Miller said that he’ll be giving his players two full weeks of rest before reconvening for practice so that they can recover their physical and mental health.
But before the Sun return together, Bonner, B. Jones, and J. Jones will be competing together as WNBA all-stars against Team USA. Jonquel Jones, who is Bahamian and plays internationally for Bosnia and Herzegovina said, “Listen, we want to beat Team USA. I want to tell my grandkids, ‘Back in 2021, we beat the gold medal team’…This is the closest I’m going to get to a gold medal.” It’s going to be an all-star game for the ages.
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Image Source: Connecticut Sun