May 27, 2022 

Film room: Connecticut shows out, Dallas shows flashes as Sun roll to win

The teams' rematch may not have been as exciting as their first go-around, but there were still plenty of good takeaways

Dallas came into Thursday night’s game in Uncasville, Conn. having won five of its last six, including a landmark victory over the Sun on Tuesday. Connecticut entered the contest looking to avenge that loss, while still trying to find an identity without starting point guard Jasmine Thomas, who’s now out for the season.

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It’s safe to say the Sun accomplished their goals, while the Wings are still showing flashes without finding consistency.

Connecticut beat Dallas 99-68 on Thursday, in a game that was much closer than the final score implies. The Sun jumped out to a 20-9 lead, but the game was tied as late as the mid-second quarter, and stayed competitive until Connecticut went on a 23-6 run across the late-third and early-fourth quarters. Combo guard Natisha Hiedeman led the Sun with 17 points (5-10 FG, 4-7 3pt.), three rebounds, six assists, and three steals; big wing DeWanna Bonner had 18 points (7-16 FG, 2-7 3pt.), six rebounds, and two assists. The Wings were led by big wing Satou Sabally’s 18 points (6-16 FG, 2-7 3pt.), four rebounds, and two assists against three turnovers; off-ball guard Arike Ogunbowale notched 16 points (6-15 FG, 2-6 3pt.), two assists, and three steals against five turnovers.

This film room will focus on the more competitive periods of the game. Keep an eye out for how the Connecticut stars’ versatility put Dallas in a bind, and the difference between when the Wings keep the ball moving and when they don’t.

(Note: If you’re reading this as an email, you must click on the headline and open this on our site to view the videos.)

First quarter

6:52 — The Wings have some lineups that play real solid team defense. Here, big Isabelle Harrison helps wing Marina Mabrey on the chin, before hedging out to deter Sun combo guard Courtney Williams from driving. Combo forward Kayla Thornton leaves a non-shooter (big Alyssa Thomas) to cover Harrison’s assignment (big wing Jonquel Jones) until Harrison recovers. Once Harrison’s back, Thornton stunts off that non-shooter to cause a bad-pass turnover.

(You can also view this as a Connecticut Spacing Problem.)

6:00 — Another example of something positive that Dallas would not have done last season. When Thornton recovers the ball in transition, she thinks about getting the ball back to Ogunbowale, which was the default in years past. But the team isn’t in position to use her skillset at that moment, so Thornton waits for the team’s initiator (Mabrey) to come up the floor.

2:27 — This is what it looks like when Connecticut spaces its sets even a little. Williams does an excellent job opening a pass to big Joyner Holmes on the roll, then comes back for the handoff. Hiedeman’s shooting gravity prevents Wings point guard Tyasha Harris from digging too deep, while Thomas’ movement to open lanes keeps Thornton farther off the ball. With Harris turned around, Hiedeman moves to open space, and Williams is ready to find her.

0:14 — The perfect time to leave the ball in Ogunbowale’s hands. No one in the league is a better late-clock option, something Thomas was reminded of.

Second quarter

8:57 — You can see here the benefit of Dallas having a true point guard on the court. Harris smoothly operates the initial set, a pick-and-pop (PnP) for Sabally with Teaira McCowan coming over to run a pick-and-roll (PnR) as a secondary option. Harris quickly gets the ball to Sabally, who kicks to McCowan, so Harris opens up to probe. She pulls out and moves the defenders to open a skip for the Thornton three. No other Wing can consistently do this.

7:02 — Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson still loves her horns sets, but she’s getting a lot more creative with them. First, Ogunbowale’s scoring gravity is used as a decoy on an Iverson loop, allowing Sabally to step up and get a clean pass. Mabrey then cuts down the middle, as if to run a Wings favorite in horns flex, but instead turns around and cuts off a back screen for McCowan. With the defense keyed to horns flex, Mabrey’s screen is more effective, which in turn leaves her open when she cuts upcourt. The Sun were already in rotation, and have little chance to cover the PnP.

5:25 — Bonner in transition remains an automatic two points.

4:30 — Isabelle Harrison, wow.

(Jonquel Jones did very much get revenge on the next play.)

0:44 — The Sun do this fascinating thing on offense where they find a matchup they want to target, then voluntarily shrink the court while running a two-player game. And the reason they can do this is they’ve got a lot of exceptional forwards and bigs with varied skillsets, (I may write more about this in the future.) Here, you’ve got two players at least 6’4 who can both handle and spot-up.

Third quarter

10:00 — This is why most Dallas sets start with the ball finding Ogunbowale; if the defender gets caught behind for any reason, that’s an excellent shooter with a lightning-quick release with an open three. (It might’ve been a moving screen by Thornton, but the point stands.)

8:32 — On the other hand, this is where Ogunbowale still has a lot of room to grow. She tries to run a semi-transition PnR, but ends up running into one of the best defenders in the league. She needs to pull the ball out as soon as she sees Thomas set up, but thinks about shooting long enough to allow Thomas the steal.

6:06 — Now this is fun: the Wings run an Iverson loop for Ogunbowale, who then spins around and turns the Iverson screens into an elevator rescreen. Bonner makes an incredible effort to even be near the ball as Ogunbowale shoots, diagnosing the play all the way from the short corner.

4:25 — DiJonai Carrington, quality basketball player.

3:21 — Brionna Jones, great rim protector.

2:31 — Brionna Jones, great roller and finisher.

2:12 — Here’s why Connecticut won, in one play: Dallas runs a decent set, but it doesn’t trust its point guards to be focal points, so it has to use a wing; B. Jones is a great hedge big forcing a tough pass that a wing can’t make; once Thomas gets the ball in transition, it only takes a little Harris overhelp, and Thomas knows where the ball goes.

1:13 — Sabally, what on earth…

Fourth quarter

8:43 — Here’s where the Sun’s spacing concerns manifest. Both of the Wings’ paint defenders have their eyes on J. Jones to start, but the next-closest perimeter player (Bonner) and the player flashing towards the nail (B. Jones) aren’t spot-up threats. Then when B. Jones slips her screen, J. Jones is already in the paint, and Carrington is in the opposite dunker’s spot because she’s not much of a catch-and-shoot threat from deep. This means B. Jones can get instantly doubled off the catch, while Dallas still keeps a player in front of J. Jones.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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