'Selfless' Sun play Sky in Game 3 of WNBA semifinal series
The Connecticut Sun trailed 11-0 just 2 minutes, 51 seconds into Game 2 of their WNBA semifinal against the Chicago Sky on Thursday when head coach Curt Miller replaced starters Brionna and Jonquel Jones with forwards Beatrice Mompremier and Alyssa Thomas.
Jonquel Jones was named WNBA MVP and Brionna Jones the Most Improved Player only two days earlier.
Miller subbed in Natisha Hiedeman for fellow guard Briann January less than two minutes later.
The substitutions worked as the Sun were able to close within a point by the end of the first quarter.
Connecticut’s bench, a balanced offense and better defense paced the Sun to a 79-68 win to tie the best-of-five series at 1-1.
Game 3 is Sunday at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena (1 p.m., ESPN).
“I have tremendous confidence in our bench,” Miller said after the game. “It doesn’t mean it didn’t come without some anxiety. You’re down 11-0, we’re looking for a spark, but if it doesn’t work, you’ll be second-guessed for taking out the best player in the world this season.
“We needed a spark and I know our bench is energy and they gave us what we needed.”
The Joneses carried the offense in Game 1. They combined to shoot 19-of-37 for 48 points.
The rest of the Sun shot 23.8 percent (15-of-53) in a 101-95 double overtime loss.
Jonquel Jones had a rough night in Game 2 as Chicago put extra emphasis on defending her. She also took an early blow to the head that left her with a lump. She played 24 minutes, 10 seconds and scored a season-low four points with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Alyssa Thomas helped provided the spark Connecticut needed off the bench. She played over 24 minutes and had 15 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and six assists.
“The great thing is I coach a locker room of humble superstars,” Miller said. “They believe so much in each other that they’re happy for each other. Not a lot of people could handle sitting down tonight when you’re the MVP and we rolled with Alyssa Thomas and Bri Jones down the stretch.”
Hiedeman had six points and five assists in over 19 minutes and Mompremier contributed some valuable minutes during the Sun's first-quarter rally.
“We extended some minutes on the bench for Jas (Jasmine Thomas) to make sure she was really fresh down the stretch,” Miller said. “There was no anxiety walking into the locker room tonight looking at JJ. It wasn’t her night. She still really helped us (in other ways), but I loved her attitude because Alyssa Thomas was giving us so much energy. Jasmine’s the same way.
“We’re very fortunate to have a group that’s selfless (and) you can make some of those decisions. Not everyone in this league could make those decisions and I’m able to do that because I have a selfless team.”
Four other Sun players scored in double figures — DeWanna Bonner (15 points with eight rebounds), January and Jasmine Thomas (12 each) and Brionna Jones (11).
Connecticut needs to get off to a better start in Game 3 after falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter of Games 1 and 2.
“(The) starters have to be more locked in having to be ready to play from the jump, knowing that the bench is always ready,” Jasmine Thomas said.
Chicago shot 49.4 percent in Game 1 against the best defense in the league.
The Sky shot 39.7 percent in Game 2. That included shooting just 20-percent (3-of-15) in the fourth quarter when the Sun outscored them, 21-9.
“We have to start from the beginning with that intensity on defense, especially so that they don’t get in a rhythm,” January said. “Starting out the games making sure they feel us. We’re a physical defensive team and I don’t think we’ve started games that way, so we need to bring that.”
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