September 17, 2022
Balanced offense keeps Connecticut Sun’s championship dreams alive
An Alyssa Thomas triple-double usually means good things are happening offensively for the Sun, and that was the case in Game 3 of the Finals
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — As she has each of the three times she’s posted a triple-double this season, Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas deferred praise to her teammates. And her teammates stated matter-of-factly that filling the stat sheet is just what Thomas does every night.
But Thomas and the Sun’s performance on Thursday wasn’t just another day at the office. It was a historic performance — the first triple-double in Finals history. And with their decisive 105-76 win over the Las Vegas Aces, the Sun pulled off the first Finals win for a team down 0-2 in a series since the WNBA adopted five-game series in 2005.
Thomas’ 16-point, 15-rebound, 11-assist performance drove a balanced offensive breakout for a Sun team that has thrived this playoffs when facing elimination, going 4-0 in win-or-go-home games.
Center Jonquel Jones led the team in scoring with 20 points and forward/guard DeWanna Bonner responded in a big way with 18 points after shooting a combined 2-for-18 in the first two games of the series. The Sun had six scorers in double digits and put up a team-record 32 assists and Finals-record 64 points in the paint, per Sun PR.
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It was the response Connecticut needed with a WNBA championship on the line, and what it’ll need to continue in Game 4 at home on Sunday.
“We have five All-Stars on our team. And so when you put all those pieces together, and everyone’s sharing the ball, we’re getting stops, we’re getting out in transition, we’re playing free and loose and having fun, that’s going to be the result,” guard DiJonai Carrington said.
Thomas’ historic triple-double also made her the first player in league history to have three triple-doubles in a season. But for Thomas and her teammates, it was just another game. In these playoffs, she’s averaged 12.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. She doesn’t get a triple-double every time, but she gets close, and she has throughout her career.
Thomas recorded the first triple-double of her WNBA career — and the first in the Sun’s 20-year history — against the Minnesota Lynx on the road in late July. She had another at home against the Phoenix Mercury less than two weeks later. In each of those instances, the Sun had at least five scorers in double digits; a balanced Sun team firing on all cylinders lends itself to a triple-double-esque statline for Thomas, who is the team’s most versatile player.
“I approached the game like I approached any other game,” Thomas said after Game 3. “I think we just wanted it. We’ve been struggling offensively. We haven’t really been hitting shots and tonight we came out ready. My teammates hit their shots, and I always say without them, none of these triple-doubles are possible.”
Sun head coach Curt Miller credited the team’s confidence and poise in being able to overcome an early 9-2 Las Vegas lead and take hold of the game in the fourth quarter after the Aces cut a 21-point Sun lead to six before the end of the third.
“We did a lot of things better, harder, more determined [than in Game 2]. Obviously, we made some scheming adjustments on both sides of the ball that I think have helped us,” Miller said. “But in common things, you’re not going to go away from who you are and who you’ve been for over 40-plus games, but we did them better tonight with more confidence, with more pace, with more determination and [with] more physicality.”
Miller said the team responded to Las Vegas’ runs throughout the second and third quarters with poise and maturity and had confidence in the game plan. Instead of overreacting and playing anxiously when Vegas caught steam, the Sun stayed disciplined.
Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum said that Thomas making shots in the high post did a lot of damage. Those were shots that the Aces let Thomas take, betting that it would be better to pack the paint against Jones and take their chances with Thomas’ push shot. But that shot was falling on Thursday, with Thomas hitting four of five from near the free-throw line.
Thomas was also able to push the ball in transition off of rebounds and turnovers, and Plum said the Aces weren’t able to match that intensity. Bonner saw the same intensity in transition, and the team fed off of Thomas’ energy.
“When I see [Thomas] get a couple steals defensively, especially a fast-break layup, I say, ‘All right, she’s here. It’s about to be a long night for somebody,’” Bonner said.
The Sun have said all playoffs that they play their best when they’re having fun, and Carrington said that Thomas’ triple-doubles have been the three most fun games of the season because everyone is running the floor and moving the ball, with Thomas leading the charge.
“We have great players on our team, so that balanced scoring is something that shouldn’t be surprising to people watching our games,” Carrington said. “And obviously, we’ve all watched AT play for many, many years and those triple-doubles also shouldn’t be surprising. So I think it’s just everyone seeing the fruits of their labor.”
The Sun overcame all historical precedent by winning on Thursday and forcing a Game 4, and they know it will be an even taller task to force the series back to Las Vegas for a winner-take-all finale. The Aces will be hungry to prove they aren’t the team that got blown out in Game 3, and they will make adjustments on both ends.
To keep up their momentum, the Sun will need to continue to dominate the boards and get out in transition, Bonner said. That’s when they play their best.
“I think that’s where the confidence comes in, because we get easy baskets and everybody could just play free and loose,” Bonner said.
Bonner also wants to see Thomas turn up to another level.
“She did all right tonight,” Bonner joked. “I need her to be great.”