Jones' recent play has been a promising sign for Sun
There were over six minutes left in the third quarter of Tuesday’s game when Connecticut Sun off-guard Courtney Williams drove the lane, was met by two Washington Mystics defenders, and jumped up to throw a pass to teammate Jonquel Jones.
Jones, Connecticut’s 6-foot-6 post, proceeded to make the kind of athletic play she often made last season when she earned All-WNBA second team honors.
It was also the kind of play that Connecticut needs from her in order to make the playoffs.
Jones, in one fluid motion, jumped, snatched the ball out of the air, and laid it up with Monique Currie of the Washington Mystics behind her and giving her little room to operate.
“She can jump,” Williams said, “so getting it up there where only she can catch it, she makes it easy.”
Jones said, “She just threw it, and I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to come down. I just went straight up.”
Jones made 10 of 12 shots, including three 3-pointers, for a season-high 23 points with six rebounds off the bench in the Sun’s 94-68 rout of Washington.
It’s been a maddening year for Jones as she’s struggled with inconsistency, but Tuesday's performance was another positive sign of late.
“Without question, she’s looking more and more like 2017 Jonquel again,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said Sunday. “She missed training camp (to personal issues) and her decision to add strength and weight, she added nearly 20 pounds of weight to her (6-foot-6 frame), that was all an adjustment with very little practice time adjusting to her new body.
“We’re just starting to see her be comfortable playing with a confidence, with a swagger, that bodes well for the future.”
Jones set single-season WNBA records for rebounds (403) and rebounds per game (11.9) last season and averaged a team-high 15.4 points and 1.5 blocks. She’s struggled this year with inconsistent play and has gone from starting to being a reserve the last six games. She hasn’t looked as spry for much of this season, but Jones doesn’t think that’s been an issue.
“I think it’s just me being in the flow of things, just trying to get back into it and feeling confident in myself,” Jones said. “It bothers me, more than anything, when we lose because I think I need to be bringing more to the table.”
Jones, over the last five games, has averaged 15.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. It’s a positive trend upwards for both her and the Sun, which relies on depth to compensate for their lack of a game-changing superstar such as Maya Moore, Candace Parker, or Breanna Stewart.
The Sun (14-12) have a 1 ½ game lead over the Las Vegas Aces (12-13) for eighth place in the overall WNBA standings. The top eight teams make the postseason, and just four games separate the second-place Atlanta Dream (16-9) from the ninth-place Aces.
Connecticut has eight games left in the regular season after this week’s All-Star break. It’s been hard to gauge the Sun this year as they got off to a 7-1 start, including some wins against short-handed teams. They then lost eight of their next 11 with starter Alyssa Thomas, their most important player this season, sidelined with a shoulder injury. Chiney Ogwumike (knee) also missed a game during that stretch and Williams four games to what the team called a personal matter.
The Sun also played nine of those 11 on the road.
Connecticut has won four of its last seven since Thomas’ return. Two of its losses came on long, improbable 3-pointers to end the game. It’s won twice on the road, including Sunday’s 92-75 win at the Dallas Wings. Dallas and Washington began the week tied for fourth place.
“I’m not going to comment on their ups-and-downs,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “What they have going for them is that they have a pretty balanced team, they have depth, and now have a group that has played together for a couple of years. They move the basketball and they know who they are, I think, more than anything else. You see it with Seattle and Atlanta as they know who they are and what their strengths are as a team.”
Miller said, “Our defense and rebounding are to be the difference (the rest of the season) if we can compete with the upper-echelon star players in this league. If we (defend) and rebound, then we can run.
“Some of our losses it’s been the Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta), the Jewell Loyds (Seattle), the people with outstanding two guards, that hurt us. We guarded some really good point guards. We’ve guarded some really good post players. But we've got to go beat teams that have big-time scoring two guards, just continue stepping up on the defensive end.”
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