Believe it or not, it’s playoff time! The Connecticut Sun scratched and clawed for a spot in the playoffs and look to repeat their 2019 Finals appearance, this time leaving the series with the championship trophy. The seventh-seed Sun (10-12) will face the sixth-seed Chicago Sky (12-10) in the first-round, single-elimination game at 7 PM ET on Tuesday night. The game will air on ESPN2.
Reasons Why Connecticut Will Advance
DeWanna Bonner will not only be one of the best players on the floor Tuesday night, but she is one of the best players in the WNBA. Bonner is in the race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award and an All-WNBA team nod..
Bonner has been the main driving force of head coach Curt Miller’s system this season. She makes up 24.5 percent of Connecticut’s scoring and leads the team with 19.7 points in 33.3 minutes per game.
League-wide, Bonner ranks in the top-10 in multiple per-game categories, including third in points and minutes, sixth in steals (1.7), eighth in defensive rebounds (6.3), and 10th in rebounds (7.8).
Against the Sky this season, Bonner tallied 34 points, 14 rebounds, and seven steals in two games.
In the last match-up between the two teams, Connecticut led Chicago by one with under a minute to go. Bonner made a steal and sank two free throws to secure the win for the Sun, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Connecticut’s playoff success will be a direct result of DB’s efforts all season long.
Bounced Back from 0-5 Start
This goes without saying, but the Sun want to win badly. After losing in Game Five of the 2019 Finals, Connecticut had high hopes for 2020. Due to the pandemic and opt-outs, the season didn’t start as planned.
The Sun went 0-5 to begin the season; however, every game was close. Every loss came within single-digits and was decided in the final minutes of the contest. Connecticut simply couldn’t put together a full 40-minutes of play and it seemed that only Bonner and Alyssa Thomas were truly competing.
Since then, the Sun have really bounced back. Connecticut went 10-6 the rest of the season and other players started to step up on both ends of the floor, including Jasmine Thomas, Briann January, and Brionna Jones.
The Sun are the third team in league history to earn a playoff spot after starting the season 0-5 or worse.
Keeping this momentum and drive to win through the postseason will be a key to the Sun advancing through the playoffs.
Reasons Why Connecticut Could Lose
Season Series Even
Chicago and Connecticut split the season series. Both games finished within single-digit points and came down to the final minutes of the fourth.
In the first game, Bria Holmes brought the Sun within one point of the Sky with under two minutes left in the third quarter, 70-69. However, Chicago went on a 9-2 run to end the third. Connecticut was unable to close the gap in the final quarter. The Sky captured the first match-up between the two teams, 100-93.
Despite the loss, Connecticut had an impressive offensive performance. Six Sun players scored in double-figures in the game including, Thomas (22 points), Bonner (15), Kaila Charles (15), Holmes (12), Brionna Jones (11), and AT (11). As a team, Connecticut shot 55.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from the three-point line.
In the second game of the series, the Sun led for most of the game and were up by double-digits heading into the final quarter. However, Chicago was able to make it a one-point in the final minutes of the game. Connecticut was able to hold it together, finding hard on both ends of the court to win 77-74.
Four Sun players recorded double-digits. Bonner recorded 19 points and nine rebounds, while AT had a near triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Thomas and Jones also recorded 15 points each.
This series highlighted the main question facing Connecticut in 2020: do the Sun have enough depth and energy to finish games? In the first game, they were unable to keep the energy through each quarter. In the second contest, the Sun proved that they can put on a high-energy performance for 40 minutes, but did almost fumble the game towards the end. The tempo and energy of the Sun’s entire bench will be what continues or kills their playoff journey.
One of the biggest fears teams had coming into this shortened season with smaller rosters is injuries. Unfortunately, Connecticut has fallen victim to the injury bug over the last few weeks, including with Holmes, Thomas, January, AT, and Jones.
Holmes suffered a meniscus tear last week in the loss against Phoenix. She exited the bubble and will miss the rest of the season.
Jasmine Thomas is dealing with plantar fasciitis, which is a direct result of overuse. She played just seven minutes last week in two games. January also missed a game this week due to a dislocated finger. AT and Jones have also appeared on and off the injury report through the season.
More injuries result in a smaller toolbox for Miller to use during the playoffs. This will lead to fatigue, especially for Bonner who is already the main contributor to this team.
The Sun badly want to win and I think they have enough steam in them to get through this first round. In Phoenix, DB had magical moments in primetime. I am very curious to see how her performance will carry over into the postseason.
This isn’t going to be an easy game or a blowout. If you love close “win or go home” games you aren’t going to want to miss this one. My prediction is the Sun by two, 79-77.