Sun pleased with themselves but not satisfied
The Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas smiled a lot during Sunday’s postgame Zoom conference call with the media after a 71-54 win over the New York Liberty.
Connecticut has many reasons to smile.
The Sun (14-6) have the league’s third-best record at the WNBA’s All-Star break, trailing the first place Seattle Storm by two games and the second place Las Vegas Aces by a game (the Sun are 2-0 vs. the latter).
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position,” Thomas said. “We’re sitting (near) the top of the league with a lot to get better at, which is a good place to be, but we don’t feel like we’ve arrived.”
Connecticut’s success is more impressive considering some of the challenges they’ve faced. It’s without point forward Alyssa Thomas this season after she tore her Achilles playing overseas in January. She's a seven-year starter who is one of the league's most well-rounded players in addition to being one of its best and fiercest defenders.
The Sun managed to go 2-3 when Jones temporarily left the team last month to play for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team at last month’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2021. Jones is having the best season of her five-year career and has been among the top players in the league. She’s second in points per game (21), tops in rebounds per game (11.1) and seventh in 3-point shooting percentage (43.7), the latter which is noteworthy because she’s a 6-foot-6 post.
Three of Connecticut’s losses also occurred without head coach Curt Miller. He missed two games after his mother had a stroke, which coincided with Jones’ absence. He missed a third game due to suspension.
Jasmine Thomas also missed the first two games of the year because her season in Turkey ran long.
“For us to be 14-6, we’re really, really pleased,” Miller said, “but as a coach you’re wired to see the warts. We’re hanging our hats on defense and rebounding. That can bail us out when we don’t have great offensive nights, but in the big picture, that’s the wart where we need to get better.
“We really believe, even without AT this year, that we have pieces to be a champion and we have to improve our offensive execution.”
The Sun are fourth out of 12 teams in field goal percentage (45.7), but a lot of that is because their offense runs inside-out. Bigs DeWanna Bonner and Brionna and Jonquel Jones are a team strength and consistent outside shooting isn’t.
“We can be better offensively,” Jones said. “Just being able to get in the right spots, being able to come out of timeouts and execute. I think championship teams have that and right now we’re lacking in that area, but I feel like that’s one of the easiest things to fix. That’s repetition. That’s just going over the plays before games, and that’s just being locked-in in timeouts.”
The Sun also need more offensive production from their young bench. They’re second-to-last in points-per-game (12.9 ppg) and a reason why the starters have played longer minutes.
• Jones was named WNBA Player of the Week for the second time this season. In two games last week, both wins, she averaged 20.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
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The Connecticut Sun used a huge third quarter run to win its franchise-record 13th straight game on Wednesday night, 98-69, over the New York Liberty before 4,012 at Mohegan Sun Arena.