CT Sun Notebook: Connecticut Overcame Major Hurdles To Reach Playoffs

It's been a long road to the playoffs for Connecticut, to say the least

Believe it or not, the Sun have earned a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

Connecticut got off to a bit of a rocky start in its 2020 campaign, dropping the first five games of its regular-season slate. But the Sun bounced back, finishing 10-12 and clinching the league’s No. 7 seed for the postseason.

The Sun faced plenty of adversity since falling one game shy of the WNBA title in 2019, especially roster-wise. In addition to losing Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen to the Atlanta Dream in February, star center Jonquel Jones opted out of the season in June “to focus on personal, social, and familial growth.”

The Sun still had some star power to work with this season, though. Alyssa and Jasmine Thomas were the only starters from Connecticut’s 2019 team to return in 2020 and were two of the team’s most consistent players throughout the current season.

They received plenty of help from former Phoenix Mercury star DeWanna Bonner, who joined the Sun via trade in February. The forward put up some of the Sun’s best regular-season numbers, earning two Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors over the six-week season.

Other new faces like Briann January and rookie Kaila Charles played major roles in the Sun’s comeback story. Charles broke out in her first WNBA season, averaging 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 21 games. January, meanwhile, battled COVID-19 and a couple of different injuries, but still managed to play 13 successful games for Connecticut.

Returning players like Brionna Jones and Natisha Hiedeman stepped up big time, as well. Jones had her best WNBA season to date, averaging 11.2. points per game (7.7 more than in 2019) and 5.6 rebounds (3.4 more than in 2019) in 21 games. Hiedeman also improved between seasons, nearly doubling her average point output from 3.7 to 6.4 per game.

It took some time to get the ball rolling this season, but the Sun played some of their best ball of the season in the last few weeks. Now, Connecticut stares down a single-elimination matchup against the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky. If the Sun wants a return ticket to the WNBA Finals, they’ll have to win a second single-elimination round and a best-of-five semifinal series first.

It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s a tall order nonetheless. Connecticut has the talent to claim the championship, but it’ll be a steep hill to climb to get there.

Now, off we go to the postseason.

Here are some more notes from the Sun’s final week of the regular season:

— The Sun will have to tackle the postseason without a key bench player.

Connecticut has ruled out Bria Holmes for the rest of the season after the guard sprained her right knee Wednesday night against the Mercury. She’s since left the WNBA bubble and returned home.

— Bonner’s successful Week 5 led to another accolade in Week 6.

The WNBA awarded the forward her second Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor of the season for yet another stellar week. Bonner averaged 25 points and 7.3 rebounds and shot 94.1 percent from the charity stripe in the three games.

— Bonner led all Sun scorers with 19.7 points per game, followed by Alyssa Thomas (15.5 points), Jones (11.2 points) and Jasmine Thomas (10.2 points).

— Alyssa Thomas led Connecticut with nine assists per game. Bonner (7.8 rebounds) and Jones (5.6 rebounds) were close behind.

— Jones sank a team-best 60 percent of the shots she took in the regular season. Alyssa Thomas (50 percent) and Bonner (42.2 percent) followed in second and third.

Thumbnail photo via Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images