An epic postseason collision between two of the best teams in the WNBA has begun. The semifinal matchup between the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty is tied at 1-1, and the series now moves to the Mohegan Sun Arena for Games Three and Four. Outside of the talent and on-court skills—and both teams’ quests to win a first championship—this matchup is noteworthy for another reason: reunion.
While Jonquel Jones, competing against the franchise she helped turn into a perennial championship contender, immediately comes to mind, another player reunion is proving just as impactful: Rebecca Allen.
From the 2015 season up until this January, when she and Jones were involved in a three-team trade, Allen had only ever played for the Liberty in the W. Coming from Australia, she joined a Liberty team led by Tina Charles, a team that missed the playoffs the previous two seasons.
When the Liberty defeated the Washington Mystics in the first round last week, it was the Liberty’s first series win since 2015. Allen was on the team that season but did not play in the postseason due to injury. The Liberty also reached the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, though they failed to win a game either year, and missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.
From 2015 to 2019, Allen played in 108 regular season games (and started in eight). Per Across the Timeline, Allen averaged 4.6 points per game (PPG), 2.0 rebounds per game (RPG), and 0.5 assists per game (APG) during that span. She also shot 38.6 percent from three-point range, proving early in her WNBA career that she was a capable long-range shooter.
Allen did not play in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, and the Liberty managed only two wins during the shortened season. However, it began the Liberty’s transition into a new era, with the departure of Charles and arrival of Sabrina Ionescu.
In 2021, the Liberty brought in players like Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard, and Sami Whitcomb, and they made the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Allen had 11 points, four rebounds, and three blocks as a starter in their playoff loss. The team’s season and performance proved they had the makings of something special, with Allen demonstrating her value as a role player with increased playing time. In the regular season, Allen averaged 9.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.6 steals per game (SPG), 1.2 blocks per game (BPG), and 24.2 minutes per game (MPG) across 25 games, 13 as a starter.
Last season, the Liberty added more playoff and championship experience with Stefanie Dolson and head coach Sandy Brondello, who Allen has played for on the Australian national team. As the Liberty made the playoffs for a second consecutive year, Allen started in 19 of 25 regular season games, averaging 7.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG, and 20.9 MPG. Though the Liberty (and Allen) got their first postseason win since 2015, they were eliminated in three games, with Allen averaging 4.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 16.4 MPG off the bench.
After the trade from New York this offseason, Allen had to acclimate to a new environment. She went from a rising Liberty team to a title contender in Connecticut. She played in all 40 regular season games, sliding into a starting role after Brionna Jones’ season-ending injury. Allen averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 1.6 BPG across 27 games as a starter.
Allen has filled in admirably for Brionna Jones and served as another strong veteran presence on this top-tier Sun team. After a 27-win regular season, Allen is now a key postseason starter on a championship contender, something she did not experience in her Liberty years. But now, to go forward and play in her first Finals, she has to get past New York.
For Allen to have success against New York, she has to shoot the ball well and to hit timely shots. She averaged 4.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 1.0 APG in the four games against the Liberty this regular season. In the Game One win against the Liberty, she scored a postseason career high 18 points (seven-of-nine from the field and four-of-six from three-point range). The Sun need to match the firepower that the Liberty possess to have a chance to win. Allen also recorded two steals and two blocks in the game.
In Game One of the previous round against the Minnesota Lynx, Allen tallied 15 points (five-of-10 from the field and five-of-six from three-point range), six rebounds, four steals, three assists, and two blocks, so she has displayed glimpses of great play on both ends of the floor this postseason.
Allen also averaged 1.5 BPG against her old team in the regular season, which included a five-block performance against them in the meeting on Jun. 27. Allen will need to play good defense, which she is capable of with her length and shot-blocking ability. While her defense was impactful in Game One, she struggled in the Game Two loss due to foul trouble. The foul trouble limited her to 19 minutes and 45 seconds of action, and she scored only six points in the game. Allen has to stay on the court, especially to help contribute to strong perimeter team defense; the Liberty are the best three-point shooting team in the league, so the Sun need to contain the likes of Ionescu, Laney, and this season’s MVP Breanna Stewart.
This series is a full circle moment for Allen. She was part of the Liberty’s promising years with Charles, the difficult years, and the resurgence that eventually led the franchise to become a superteam. Jonquel Jones’ history with the Sun may get the primary attention, but Allen’s time with the Liberty should not be disregarded.
This matchup between the Sun and Liberty feels like a high point in Allen’s WNBA career, with her past colliding with her present. Her past: a franchise in its most exciting time, one she helped to build and create a winning culture. Now: a franchise she’s helped to maintain a winning culture, despite their significant offseason changes. Neither of these two franchises have won a WNBA title, but both have had the contributions of Rebecca Allen to help lead them.
Stats as of September 29, 2023 and, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of WNBA.com.