Less than 48 hours before the Connecticut Sun faced off with the Las Vegas Aces for Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals, players from other teams reportedly could hear Alyssa Thomas shrieking in pain as her dislocated shoulder was popped back into place.
She injured her shoulder Tuesday in Game 2, and was ruled out for the rest of the game, which Connecticut ultimately lost.
But some way, some how, with a lot of medical tape, Alyssa Thomas not only started Thursday, but carried the team on her injured shoulder(s) all the way to a 77-68 win.
The forward, playing through the pain, scored a game-high 23 points with 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals for the double-double.
Brionna Jones followed that up with a double-double of her own, with 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals in perhaps her best offensive performance of the year. And for good measure, DeWanna Bonner recorded double digits in scoring (12 points) and rebounds (10) as well.
League MVP A’ja Wilson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Angel McCoughtry had a solid second half with 14 points, seven boards and three assists.
But ultimately, the Aces’ 15 turnovers led to their demise.
With that, Connecticut takes a 2-1 series advantage over Vegas. Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Jasmine Thomas
SG: Briann January
PF: Alyssa Thomas
SF: DeWanna Bonner
C: Brionna Jones
THIS ONE IS GOING TO BE TIGHT
The first quarter was a battle, as no team possessed more than a four-point lead through the frame.
But while the Aces benefitted from more of their shots falling on offense, shooting 50 percent from the field compared to the Sun’s 39.1 shooting percentage in the first, Connecticut’s defense kept it close.
January led that effort, recording two first-quarter steals.
Connecticut took care of business on the glass, with seven defensive boards in the first, and forced four Las Vegas turnovers, ultimately allowing them a one-point lead at the end of the quarter.
Wilson had a game-high six points, but the Sun’s balanced offense saw Bonner, Jones and Alyssa Thomas with four-points apiece.
Not to mention, Alyssa Thomas also had four rebounds and two assists despite her injury.
Add in some quick points off the bench with a Kaila Charles triple and we’re in business.
The Sun led 19-18 after the first quarter.
ARE WE SURE ALYSSA THOMAS IS HURT!?
You’d think all the medical tape on Alyssa Thomas’ shoulder was just for swag the way she played in the second.
Surely, no one watching the quarter without context would believe she’d just missed a game with a dislocated shoulder to not only play, but go off, in Game 3.
Two defenders in the post. Contested drive. No problem.
Still, the Aces remained neck-and-neck with the Sun. And when Vegas tied things up at 29-all, Connecticut continued to allow its defense to create offense.
And as it did in the last few games, Jasmine Thomas’ offense continued to emerge.
But inside the three-minute mark, Wilson muscled through three defenders and tied things up for Vegas again at 32 points each.
A few sequences later, Jones pulled down an offensive rebound and banked it, setting Connecticut off on a 6-0 run to instigate a timeout by Vegas with 30 seconds on the clock.
The first half ended with the Sun up 38-32, the largest lead of the game to that point.
Wilson had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Aces, who turned it over nine times before the break.
The Sun, meanwhile, only had two first-half turnovers.
Alyssa Thomas had a team-high 13 points with five rebounds, three assists and a steal. Bonner, Jasmine Thomas and Jones each dropped six.
Jones opened the second half with a layup to extend the Sun’s lead to 40-32, but the Aces crawled back into things with some heavy lifting from McCoughtry and Danielle Robinson.
But Alyssa Thomas recorded a double-double in the third quarter with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Jones flirted with one herself with nine points and eight rebounds.
But with a 3-pointer from Robinson in the closing seconds of the frame, the Aces managed to lead 56-63 at the break.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
The momentum Vegas built up through the last 10 minutes of the third quarter was carried into the fourth.
And simultaneously, Connecticut struggled with its outside shooting.
McCoughtry didn’t though, and she continued to take over the game and the Aces pulled out to a seven-point lead.
So Bonner took matters into her own hands, sacrificing her body by driving to the hoop and going down hard after bringing the Sun back within one point.
Bonner got up and stayed in the game after rolling her ankle, and Jones continued on her best offensive game of the season.
She made a layup before Alyssa Thomas took the lead back on the next offensive possession for the Sun.
Jones then picked-off a bad pass from Robinson, but with a costly five-second violation, Connecticut didn’t capitalize on the other end and Wilson hit two free throws to make it a 68-67 game.
But Jones took a charge from Wilson, giving the ball back to Connecticut and setting up Alyssa Thomas for an incredible stretch. To go along with two baskets that gave the Sun a nice buffer, she also had a clutch steal.
They were down seven points with less than five minutes left, but finished the game with a nine-point lead.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Sorry, but we have two tonight.
This is the play from Alyssa Thomas that set the tone:
And this is the one that put it away:
We’re on to Game 4. Connecticut and Las Vegas go at it again Sunday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. ET.