Survive and advance.
That’s what the Connecticut Sun had to do in their Round 2, single-elimination game against the Los Angeles Sparks to continue their run in the WNBA playoffs.
And with their 73-59 upset Thursday, the Sun will remain in the league’s bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Connecticut pulled away early, and the game was never close, as it benefited from Nneka Ogwumike’s absence to focus its defensive effort on Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray instead.
Parker had a 20-point double-double in the loss as the only Sparks starter to reach double figures. Off the bench, Seimone Augustus had 10 points while Gray struggled with just four points.
Los Angeles was held to 32.2% from the field, and was just 2-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Alyssa Thomas led the Sun in scoring with 19 points, seven boards, five assists and two steals in a balanced performance. DeWanna Bonner, meanwhile, had 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a double-double.
Starters Briann January, Brionna Jones and Jasmine Thomas scored double figures as well. The Sun shot 45% from beyond the arc to take the win and never look back.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Jasmine Thomas
SG: Briann January
PF: Alyssa Thomas
SF: DeWanna Bonner
C: Brionna Jones
DEADLY FROM DEEP
It was a slow start, with buckets hard to come by for both squads, but Jones opened up the scoring for Connecticut, followed by a 3-pointer from January, which got the Sun hot from beyond the arc.
Connecticut was 4-for-6 from deep in the first frame, with January burying both attempts at a triple.
Meanwhile, the Sun’s defense was stifling, holding the Sparks to 4-for-19 shooting from the field, and 0-for-6 on 3-point attempts. Even Parker was held to just two points in the frame, with no Los Angeles player surpassing that.
Jones and January led with six points apiece, while Bonner racked up six boards, five assists and a block to go with her two points.
The Sun led 22-8 at the end of the first, shooting 42.1% from the field and 66.7% from deep while holding the Sparks to their fewest first-quarter points all season.
BONNER IS BALLIN’
Bonner and Ashley Thomas had a quiet first quarter — at least in terms of scoring — but found their stride in the second.
Bonner scored the Suns first five points of the quarter with a driving layup and a jumper from deep.
The two teams’ offenses weren’t as lopsided in the second, however, as Connecticut only outscored Los Angeles 17-15 in the quarter.
Parker went to the charity stripe five times, capitalizing on each one, finding Alyssa Thomas with three personal fouls already in the first half.
Parker’s points mostly came from the free-throw line, but she led the Sparks with nine points before the break.
The Sparks were 0-for-7 from beyond the arc and only 8-for-30 from the field, while turning the ball over seven times.
Meanwhile, January finished the half with eight points, Alyssa Thomas with seven, and Bonner flirted with a first-half triple-double, leading the Sun with 12 points, nine boards and five assists.
She hit a 3-pointer in the final minute to give Connecticut the 39-23 lead it had entering halftime.
RUNNING AWAY WITH IT
Connecticut extended its lead to as many as 19 points, as Bonner and Alyssa Thomas continued to ball out.
But Jasmine Thomas’s effort, especially on the defensive end, stood out. She finished the quarter with seven total points and five assists.
And how about this pass by Jasmine Thomas?
Bonner and Alyssa Thomas led the Sun entering the final quarter with 15 points apiece, as they lead the Sparks 59-40.
SEE YA, SPARKS
January led the final frame off with a 3-pointer, assisted by Jones, but the Sparks proceeded to go on a 6-0 run.
Still, Los Angeles couldn’t climb out their hole, though Augustus put together a nice quarter. But with January’s hot hand from deep, it was hard for the Sparks to build on any momentum.
Connecticut emptied its bench in garbage time, and live to see another day.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Jasmine Thomas doesn’t always get the credit she deserves, but this pass was a beauty.
Next up, Connecticut will advance to play the No. 1 Los Vegas Aces in the semifinals. Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.
Thumbnail photo via Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images