After a disastrous start to their 2020 season, the Sun now find themselves advancing to Round 2 of the WNBA playoffs.
Connecticut on Tuesday topped the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky 94-81 in their first-round single-elimination game at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Sun took control in the second half, and didn’t look back.
Alyssa Thomas (26 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) and DeWanna Bonner (23 points, 12 rebounds, three assists) led the charge for Connecticut, each earning a double-double in the process.
The Sun’s defense stifled a typically-dominant Sky squad, only with Allie Quigley (19 points), Kahleah Cooper (17 points) and Gabby Williams (16 points) scoring double figures.
With the win, the Sun advanced to the second round, where they’ll play either the third-seeded Los Angels Sparks or the fourth-seeded Minnesota Lynx.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Jasmine Thomas
SG: Briann January
PF: Alyssa Thomas
SF: DeWanna Bonner
C: Brionna Jones
NOT MUCH DAYLIGHT
As expected, this one started off tight.
Chicago found a slight edge behind a solid start for Courtney Vandersloot. But the Sun had plenty of pushback early, evening the score several times throughout the quarter.
Bonner and Thomas combined for the Sun’s first 13 points.
Thomas gave Connecticut its first lead of the game late in the first, and made sure the Sun kept it entering the second. She led all scorers with 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first 10 minutes.
THE BONNER AND THOMAS SHOW
Things swung a bit more in the Sun’s favor in the second.
Connecticut leaned on Bonner and Thomas once again as the team opened up an eight-point lead, the biggest of the game. They put up 29 of the Sun’s 42 first-half points, sinking nine of their combined 14 shots from the field and missing just one of 10 free throws between them.
Kaila Charles also contributed to the cause with seven first-half points on 50 percent shooting in her first-ever WNBA playoff game.
Chicago didn’t let up and slowly chipped away at Connecticut’s lead. A Williams triple made it a one-point game with 54.2 seconds on the clock, forcing the Sun to regroup with a late timeout.
But she wasn’t done there, sinking her second three in a row with 18.8 seconds left to give Chicago the lead back.
Thomas evened the score at 41 with a quick hook shot before the buzzer.
While Thomas and Bonner excelled, the rest of the team wasn’t so successful. The other five players shot just 5-for-19 (29 percent) from the field in the first half and notched just 12 points between them.
On the plus side, Bonner’s seven first-half rebounds allowed her to pass Tina Thompson on the WNBA’s all-time playoffs rebounds list for sole possession of 10th place.
CONNECTICUT CATCHES FIRE
The Sun found their stride in the third.
Connecticut exploded offensively to start the quarter and to create an 11-point lead on a 15-4 run at the halfway point. Jasmine Thomas finally snapped out of her slump with eight quick points.
But the Sun didn’t stop there, extending their lead to 16 late in the frame. Charles continued to impress on both sides of the ball, while Brionna Jones remained dominant in the paint.
Connecticut entered the final 10 with a 68-52 lead.
WELCOME TO ROUND 2
Not much changed in the fourth, allowing the Sun to cruise to the second round.
Connecticut capitalized on a deflated Chicago team, building a game-high 19-point lead early in the quarter. Bonner and Thomas used this time to complete their double-doubles in epic fashion. (Thomas now has seven playoff double-doubles, by the way.)
Thomas recorded a record 10 offensive rebounds in the contest, breaking the previous record of nine, per Sun PR.
Chicago made it a nine-point game with 2:04 left to play, but a couple of big shots by Bonner assured the Sun’s lead for good
That’s all Connecticut needed to secure the W. The Sun topped the Sky 94-81 and punched its ticket to the second round.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Early, but oh so awesome.
Connecticut will take on either the Sparks or the Lynx in the second-round single-elimination game Thursday night based on which team wins the other first-round contest.
If the Washington Mystics win, the Sun will play Los Angeles. If the Phoenix Mercury win, they’ll play Minnesota.
Thumbnail photo via Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images