September 19, 2020
“We’re built for this time”: Curt Miller and the Connecticut Sun are ready to continue their playoff run
Three-point shooting sparks Connecticut's win over the Los Angeles Sparks
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Connecticut Sun v Los Angeles Sparks – Game One PALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 17: Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun shoots the ball against the Los Angeles Sparks during the WNBA playoffs on September 17, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by NedDishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
“It was amazing just to feel the flow of the game and the way we executed on offense and defense, it was a complete team effort from tip-off to the ending sounding of the horn and it was sweet, that feels sweet and that’s the attention to detail the intensity, the energy we have to carry over for the rest of the playoffs,” Briann January said after the Connecticut Sun’s 73-59 win over the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round of the playoffs.
January made a pair of threes in the first quarter, helping the sun build a 22-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, a lead they were able to maintain for most of the game.
The Sun were not known for their three-point shooting in the regular season, shooting just 31.2 percent. However, against the Los Angeles three-point shooting was the spark the Sun needed to pull out the win, going 9-20 (45 percent) from behind the arc on Thursday night.
However, the Sparks couldn’t match the Sun, making just two.
Head coach Curt Miller praised the Sparks’ defense but noted that the way they defended, clogging up the paint, allowed the Sun to get kick-out and open threes.
“Tonight was one of those nights where we made a good percentage of our open threes, we just have had an inconsistent year making open threes. It’s just a different story of making contested threes, we’re not built that way but we just have struggled at times making open threes and tonight they dropped and those early ones dropping gave us confidence that we can continue to play through the paint and then get the three-point shots,” Miller said.
January credited the made threes to confidence, not anything the team did differently headed into the game.
“[Our shot] might not have fallen, a majority of the season, and we had some struggles, but we got to continue to shoot it. When we played inside out the past couple of games we have looked really good,” she said.
The Sun will take on the Las Vegas Aces in their semifinals series, the only team that shot a lower three-point percentage in the regular season than them. If Connecticut can make threes against Vegas, it could again be the difference-maker.
Since being an inexperienced playoff team last season, the Sun have added veterans with playoff experience.
“This is how we’re built. When we went in free agency and knew we couldn’t bring some of that core group back that got us to the finals. We set out a goal in mind to bring in some championship pedigree, and more veterans, and that’s what we’re built for. We’re built for this time. They’ve won, they’ve been here, it’s not too big for them,” Miller said.
Since last year the Sun have added January, DeWanna Bonner, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Essence Carson, who have all won a championship.
Bonner also shared that she was influential in getting January to come to Connecticut, saying, “When I made the change from Phoenix, Briann was one of the first people I talked to like ‘Let’s do this. Come to Connecticut let’s deal, let’s make a change, you and Jas [would be] a killer backcourt.'”
While the Sun faced two single-elimination games this week, the Aces did not play a game and had an opportunity to rest, that is not something the team is worried about.
“The big thing with Vegas is they out tough everyone right? and toughness is talked about a lot in our first two wins. But this is a whole nother level now, we got to take our toughness and our physicality to a whole different level. You have the reigning MVP. You have a lot of great pieces around that and [a] record setting bench. And so they just keep coming at you with waves of people,” Miller said.
Alyssa Thomas added, “I really don’t think it’s about the rest. We’ve been playing great basketball down the stretch. And now we have two games under our belt and we’re about to play a Vegas team that is rested but you know we get a few days, ourselves, and we’re going to be ready. As you can see, we’re playing great basketball right now and I can’t wait for this series vs. Vegas.”
Both Miller and Thomas also mentioned that the team would be playing with a chip on its shoulder.
“No one’s going to pick us to win. We’re going to use that disrespect, we’re going to use that chip, our players felt like no one thought out there that we could beat LA, and we’re gonna use it even if it’s not happening we’re definitely going to use the disrespect card and believe we are truly the underdogs going into this series,” Miller said.
As she has proven in the playoffs, she thrives off of adversity and doubters.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised, nobody picked us to make playoffs, and we’re in playoffs, and we’ve won two single-game eliminations, and they’re still doubting us. We love when people doubt us, but as you can see tonight, we mean business and we’re a scary team to play in the playoffs,” Alyssa Thomas said.
The Sun return to the court to take on the Aces at 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 20.