Semifinals Preview: Connecticut Sun

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Soo, I was wrong and I should have known better. I read all about the #disrespeCT movement from 2019 before covering the Sun this year. I listened to DeWanna Bonner preach to stay with them, to believe in them all season long. And yet, I didn’t. I did not think the Connecticut Sun would advance to the semifinals. 

Not only have they advanced and proved everyone wrong, but they’ve also done it in such a dominant fashion.

“We love when people doubt us, but as you can see tonight, we mean business,” Alyssa Thomas said after their second round win over the Los Angeles Sparks.

Second Round Recap | Sun 73 – Sparks 59

Coming off a 13-point win over the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs, Connecticut looked fresh, young, and ready to battle Thursday night. 

The Sun kickstarted their offense early with a 22-8 run to begin the contest. From there, Connecticut was able to keep its pace the entire game. The Sparks played catch-up the rest of the match-up but were unable to close the gap. Connecticut led by as much as 20 during the game. 

All five Sun starters scored in double-figures, including AT who led the team with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Bonner recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, in addition to five assists, two steals, and a block.

Brionna Jones (10 pts, 8 rbs), Briann January (11 pts, 4 ast), and Jasmine Thomas (10 pts, 6 ast) balanced the attack for the Sun.

Connecticut’s defense was equally as hot during Thursday’s game. They held LA, who averaged 84.9 per game this year, to a season-low 59 total points. The team shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from three. Chelsea Gray, nicknamed the ‘point gawd’, was held to just four points and zero assists by the Sun. She averaged 14 points and 5.3 assists per game throughout the 2020 season. 

“We have felt at times like we’re a top-four team in this league,” Miller said after the game. “Defense, rebounding and low turnovers can carry the day, certainly in a playoff game. We defended, we rebounded and we controlled the ball.”

The Sun committed just eight turnovers on Thursday.

“Our players felt like no one thought that we could beat LA,” Miller continued. “We’re definitely going to use the disrespect card and believe we are truly the underdogs going into this next series.”

Previewing the No. 1 Aces

The Connecticut Sun will face the best team in the league in the Las Vegas Aces, who are led by the recently-named Most Valuable Player: A’ja Wilson.

During the regular season, Connecticut was swept by Vegas. In their first meeting, the Sun were outrebounded 37-26 and committed 16 turnovers. Despite double-digit performances from AT (15 pts), January (15 pts), and Bonner (10 pts), Connecticut was unable to overcome their rebounding and turnover mistakes to fall 99-78. 

In the second game of the regular season series, the Sun were without AT (hand) and Jasmine Thomas (plantar fasciitis) due to injuries. This left Bonner (22 pts) to shoulder most of the offensive load for the Sun, which was made even more difficult by three Aces scoring 20-plus points in the game. Vegas went on to win 93-78. 

Look, the Aces are GOOD. I could easily just say that they are better than the Sun and will punch their ticket to the Finals in three games. But, Connecticut is better than its record and we haven’t seen this Vegas team in the playoffs yet. 

A big factor in this semifinals series will be one, to neutralize Wilson, and two, rebounding. 

Wilson has proven that she can carry this team to wins, which is why she won the league’s MVP award. Limiting the production of Wilson on either end of the court will leave the Aces vulnerable, creating an opportunity for the Sun to upset. 

Connecticut and Vegas are two of the best rebounding teams in the league. AT leads the Sun with 9.0 per game, while Wilson is the leading rebounder for the Aces with 8.5 per contest. Fans watching this series should keep an eye on the rebounding count in the box score. Like Miller said last game, rebounding can carry a playoff game.

I’m not going to make an official series prediction, but I will say this: it is anybody’s game to win.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think anyone, besides Miller and his Sun squad, believed that after an 0-5 start they would be just a few games shy of going back to the WNBA Finals. And maybe that is why they did get this far. No one saw it coming, except Connecticut.

“You have to show up, you have to execute or you’re going home,” January said. “You can’t think about big-picture. You have to think one possession at a time.”

“Nobody picked us to make the playoffs, and we’re in the playoffs,” AT added. “We’ve won two single-game eliminations, and they’re still doubting us. We’re a scary team to play in the playoffs, and we’re just ready to play Vegas.”

“We’re built for this time,” Miller said.

As media and members of the basketball community, it is in our nature to make predictions. At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter. There is basketball to be played, and I am so excited to watch. Game One: Sunday at 1 PM ET on ESPN.

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