Jones paces Sun past Mystics to tie WNBA Finals
Washington — It’s a no-brainer how much value Jonquel Jones and Elena Delle Donne have to their respective teams
Tuesday’s Game 2 of the WNBA Finals proved just how much their teams truly rely on each.
Delle Donne, the Washington Mystics catalyst and 2019 WNBA MVP, had to leave the game due to back spasms with 6 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first quarter and never returned.
The Connecticut Sun lost their lead when Jones went to the bench with four fouls late in the third quarter. She iced the game once she returned in the fourth.
Jones scored 12 of her game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and added 18 rebounds as the Sun beat the Mystics 99-87 to tie the best-of-five series at one at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Jones was the first player in WNBA Finals history to have 30 or more points and 15 or more rebounds.
Game 3 is Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena (3:30 p.m., Ch. 8).
The Sun talked about getting Jones more touches after she got just eight shots in Sunday’s Game 1 loss.
Jones had more shots attempts (24) and field goals (13) than any other player Tuesday.
“I just got on the offensive glass a lot, and that allowed me to really get everything else going,” Jones said. “Obviously, my teammates were looking for me, and we talked about getting me the ball more in Game 2.
“I just wanted to deliver.”
The Mystics led early, 7-6, when Delle Donne left the game and wasn’t seen again.
Washington head coach Mike Thibault said that Delle Donne had ongoing tightness in her back late in the regular season that they were able to treat. He said she felt her back “grab” going for a layup early in Tuesday’s game.
“She’s going to get an MRI (Wednesday),” Thibault said. “It didn't look good, so we'll see. ... I didn't look forward to having four days between games, but right now that looks like a benefit that we didn't have at the start of the series.”
Three of Washington’s eight regular-season losses happened when Delle Donne was out injured.
“The one nightmare I've had for the last month is seeing her lying on her back,” Thibault said. “I watched that in 2015 when she was in Chicago, and it wasn't a good sight for them, and it wasn't a good sight for me now.”
Washington missed Delle Donne’s presence on Jones. The latter had more offensive rebounds (a Finals-record nine) on Tuesday night than any Washington player had total rebounds.
“Man, J.J. was going crazy today,” Sun Courtney Williams said. “I told her I felt like I could pull the ball from half court and she was going to look out for me and get the rebound. That's huge when she has that mindset to go get every ball, every rebound.”
Alyssa Thomas had 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while Williams had 22 points and six assists for Connecticut, which tied the finals record for most players with 20 or more points.
“(I’m) proud of that group,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said about his team. “(We made) a concerted effort to play through J.J., while still putting Courtney and Alyssa Thomas in action, (which) really allowed us to have a really efficient and productive offensive night.”
The Sun shot 50 percent. They also drilled the Mystics on the glass (41-27) and had an edge in second-chance points (28-10).
“It’s a pretty simple game — when you give up 90 points to their starters, 56 points in the paint and 17 offensive boards for 28 points, that's a tough way to try to win a game,” Thibault said. “Give (the Sun) credit. Jonquel was great (tonight), bounced back from their other game, but we didn't control really any of those three players that scored.
“The rebounding was a huge concern. When Elena went out, I thought that she did a terrific job in Game 1 on Jonquel on the boards, and that went out the door. So, we've got to do it the hard way.”
Washington’s Kristi Toliver and its bench did all they could to get a win
Reserves Emma Meesseman (23 points, eight rebounds), Tianna Hawkins (16 points, six rebounds) and Aerial Powers (11 points) were three of the Mystics’ four double-digit scorers.
Toliver shot 6 of 20 for 13 points with seven assists.
“It's all about who's on the floor at that time, and we have people that stepped up today,” Toliver said. “We just were rolling with who we got. This one over here (Hawkins) did a great job filling in those shoes.”
Bria Holmes gave Connecticut a boost off the bench by scoring all nine of her points in the second quarter. She scored seven unanswered points, the last of which was a 3-pointer that gave the Sun their largest lead, 49-35, with 3:15 left in the first half.
Jasmine Thomas’ layup gave Connecticut a 71-62 lead with 4:29 left in the third quarter. Its offense proceeded to get bogged down and it missed its next 10 shots.
The Mystics, meanwhile, gradually eroded their deficit. Powers scored seven in a row, including a three-point play with 2:26 remaining in the quarter that got Jones her fourth foul and sent her to the bench.
Another Powers layup cut the Sun’s lead to 71-69 with 1:30 left in the third.
Toliver’s driving bank shot tied the game at 76 with 8:14 remaining in the game.
Jones returned with 7:58 left and, moments later, put back a missed Shekinna Stricklen 3-pointer for the go-ahead basket.
Alyssa Thomas followed with a drive and Williams made a shot to push Connecticut ahead, 82-76, with 6:36 remaining.
Jones scored the Sun’s final points on two 3-pointers and a cutting layup.
“We have such great respect for Tianna,” Miller said. “We have such great respect for Emma, and Kristi — I coached Kristi Toliver my first year in the league (as a Los Angeles Sparks assistant) —and I know as a leader what she can do and put teams on her back herself.
“Obviously, you don’t take an MVP out of a lineup for 37 minutes and aren’t affected. But what that champion Washington team was still able to do is a credit to Mike, is a credit to their players. It was a fantastic game and we’re really excited to be going home with a split.”
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