UNCASVILLE, Conn. – With their backs up against the wall (again) in the WNBA playoffs, the Connecticut Sun has found another tool. The path was led by the player they call “the machine” Alyssa Thomas.
She earned her first triple-double in WNBA Finals history on Thursday as the Sun beat Las Vegas Aces 105-76 in Game 3 of a best-of-five series after losing their first two games on the famous strip. If anyone thought the sun was going to roll in order to sweep the aces… well, no one following the WNBA thought that. It’s not just the sun’s character.
They lost a close match 1 on Sunday and a close match 2 match on Tuesday at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. But back home at the Mohegan Sun Arena in front of their fans, The Sun has summoned the mojo they need to force Game 4, which will be Sunday here in Connecticut (4pm EST, ESPN).
“If you could encapsulate Connecticut, it would be very physical and resilient,” aces coach Becky Hammon said of the Sun. “They have kind of a battle-type mentality, and we didn’t match that night, in any category. They kicked our ass in every way we could.”
Of Thomas, who finished the game with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, Hammon said: “It’s a beast. I went to the UFC fight last night; I don’t want to get in the cage with her. It’s so tough. games maker “.
Thomas, who is 6-foot-2, was the No. 4 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft from Maryland, leading to the women’s fourth final in her final year.
Thomas is a difficult – if not impossible – player who can be compared to anyone else in the WNBA. Her long shoulder injuries (labrum tears in both that weren’t surgically repaired) prevent her from getting an actual jump shot, but that doesn’t matter. Thomas has discovered her own ways to put the ball in the hoop, she is so ingenious and powerful, it is hard to stop.
Thomas is basically a point forward, with how much she handles the ball and looks to create chances for her teammates. and bounce? Well, as Hammon said, there’s nothing in Thomas that makes you think you’ll beat her up or attack her.
“The cool thing is that it happens every day,” Sun coach Kurt Miller said of Thomas’ energy. “She doesn’t know how to play otherwise.” “She’s probably the hardest player I’ve ever coached, but she’s the most consistent player I’ve ever worked on.”
There was a lack of consistency on some matters with The Sun in the first two games of the Finals, which put them in win-or-home mode. But they faced it in the first round when they had to go to Dallas to close out a best-of-three streak and in the semi-finals and when they beat defending champions Chicago twice at Sky Home, including in the decisive fifth game.
On Thursday, the Aces started 9-2, but that was how much they controlled this match. As if a switch was flipped, the Sun’s energy level rose dramatically and they drove 34-19 after the first quarter. By the end of the match, all Sun players had scored double goals, led by 2021 MVP Junkel Jones with 20 points.
DeWanna Bonner, after coming off the field 2 of 18 in the first two games of the Finals, went 8 of 15 on Thursday for 18 points, along with helping Aces goalkeeper Chelsea Gray to 11 points.
But tonight’s star was Thomas, whose triple double was her third of the season, also a WNBA record. There have been 19 triple-doubles in WNBA history — three in the playoffs, one by Courtney Vanderslott of Chicago and Sheryl Swoops of Houston — but they’re much less rare than they once were. Eight of the 19 came this season, and two were last season.
This reflects more centerless play, which the NBA sees as it was in the NBA. In Thomas’ case, it has to do with her ability to be able to play as a real post and also as someone who can float around and make things happen for herself or her teammates.
And on a night when the season of the sun might have ended, Thomas led the way, wanting to continue.
“For me, I treated the match as if I would approach any other match,” Thomas said. “I think we just wanted to. We were fighting offensively. We weren’t shooting and tonight we came out ready.”
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