Sun pull away and beat Mercury 94-66
Mohegan — Connecticut Sun’s comfort zone features speed and chaos.
“I wouldn’t say chaos,” Sun Alyssa Thomas smiled. “Chaos is what Dallas does.”
Noted, yet Connecticut created enough havoc against the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday afternoon to rip their game wide-open.
The Sun forced six turnovers to start the third quarter and gave Phoenix one of its worst beatings of the season, 94-66, before 8,353 at Mohegan Sun Arena. They also guaranteed themselves at least one home playoff game.
“Our energy level started off a little slow and we really weren’t playing at the pace and the tempo that we wanted,” Sun Jasmine Thomas said. “We picked it up in the second quarter and even more so in the second half.
“We don’t feel like we’re being ourselves (when we’re not aggressive).”
Connecticut started the second half with a 15-2 run. It scored 12 of those points off turnovers to go ahead, 61-47, with five minutes, 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We got enough stops that we turned into our transition game,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “We got out running and got the game back to where we’re comfortable and really playing up-tempo. We just wanted to attack them.”
Mercury Diana Taurasi said, “They just kicked our (butt). That’s the bottom line. They kicked our (butt) in the second half in every facet of the game.”
The Sun (19-10) clinched the season series against Phoenix. It was quite a response by them after they lost to the surging New York Liberty on Friday, 82-70.
“We talked about how good that was for us (to prepare for the playoffs) because of how physical (the Liberty) were,” Miller said. “I thought we were the more physical team (Sunday). I thought we really battled at the point of attack tonight.
“I thought the New York game allowed us to have (Connecticut's) attention again. … In this league, the most aggressive, the most physical, the aggressor at both ends of the floor, finds a way to the finish line.”
Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. Jonquel Jones, matched up against 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, made 8 of 11 shots for 20 points with eight rebounds.
Jasmine Thomas had 14 points, five rebounds and two steals and Courtney Williams had 16 points, four rebounds and two steals. Shekinna Stricklen added 12 points.
Griner had 18 points and six rebounds for Phoenix (15-14). Taurasi (3-of-11 field goals) had seven points, just the third time this season she’s scored in single digits.
“I’m very disappointed,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said. “I don’t know what kind of team came out (for us), but give credit to Connecticut. They went to another level. They got in passing lanes, and we were just not very sharp in our execution and allowed them to get out in transition.”
Jasmine Thomas and Williams each had two steals during the Sun’s opening third quarter run and Alyssa Thomas added one. Thomas nearly forced another turnover, but instead disrupted Phoenix enough to cause a shot clock violation.
Connecticut went on a 17-0 run during the fourth quarter to go ahead, 94-64, with 1:54 remaining.
The win kept the Sun two games ahead of the New York and the Washington Mystics, which are both 17-12 and clinched playoff berths with wins on Sunday.
The WNBA's top eight teams make the playoffs with the top four seeds getting a first round bye, and the top two seeds advancing to the best-of-five semifinal round. The first two rounds are single elimination.
“If we get a bye or not, we will have a home playoff game,” Miller said. “Really exciting times for Connecticut. I’m excited for our fans. They’ve been patient. They’ve lived through a little bit of a playoff drought.”
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