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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Sun host Wings in Game 1 of WNBA first-round playoff series

    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) battles Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers (3) for a rebound while teammate Jonquel Jones looks on during Sunday’s game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Rebounding will be a key Connecticut, which begins a best-of-three first round playoff series asgainst the Dallas Wings on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller is confident his team can make another deep playoff round when the Sun host the Dallas Wings in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mohegan — There have been several pillars to the Connecticut Sun’s success the past few seasons, chief among them rebounding.

    The Sun are blessed with one of the WNBA’s most talented frontcourts led by Alyssa Thomas and Brionna and Jonquel Jones. The trio helped Connecticut lead the league in total rebounds (37.1 per-game), offensive rebounds (10.2) and second-chance points (19.2) this season.

    The Sun, however, had just four offensive rebounds the last time they played the Dallas Wings, an 82-71 road loss on July 5 in its final game before the All-Star break. Thomas had the only offensive rebound between her and the Joneses.

    “It was (lack of) effort,” Brionna Jones said. “There’s a lot of 50-50 balls that we could’ve had that game and I think it was all the little details that we harp on all season if we want to be the team that we want to be and make that championship run that we have to take care of.”

    The third-seeded Sun begin what they hope will be a championship run on Thursday when they host No. 6 Dallas in Game 1 of a best-of-three first-round series at Mohegan Sun Arena (8 p.m., ESPNU, NBATV).

    Connecticut (25-11) finished third in the overall standings this year, the fifth time in six seasons that it’s won 21-or-more games. It won seven regular-season series against the league’s other 11 teams by a combined record of 21-1.

    The Sun split their four games with the New York Liberty.

    The top-ranked Las Vegas Aces (26-10) and the second-seeded and defending champion Chicago Sky (26-10) were two of the three teams that won a season series against Connecticut.

    Dallas (18-18) was the third, beating the Sun two out of three times.

    “What we didn’t accomplish the last time we played them was we didn’t make shots we’re capable of,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “Compounding that. … was Dallas did such a good job of keeping us off the glass. We didn’t play with the energy that we needed to win on the road against a good team.”

    The Sun have been much better since that loss. They’re 11-3 since the All-Star break and won nine of their last 11 games. Both losses were to Chicago.

    “We got it together,” Brionna Jones said. “We’re definitely a lot more locked in; a lot more focused. Our bench is playing really well right now. Were all playing at our highest level.”

    The Wings are also a much different team due to the absence of star guard Arike Ogunbowale. She’s missed six of the team’s last seven games, including the last four, because she needed iliac crest core muscle avulsion repair, a rare abdominal injury according to National Library of Medicine.

    Ogunbowale suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of an Aug. 6 game against the Indiana Fever and had surgery three days later. The Wings said she’ll miss the first round.

    Ogunbowale tied Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Phoenix Mercury for the third-highest scoring average this season (19.7).

    Dallas won four of six games without Ogunbowale, including back-to-back wins over Chicago (84-78, Aug. 2) and Las Vegas (82-80, Aug. 4).

    The Wings have played through Teaira McCowan a lot more during Ogunbowale’s absence. The 6-foot-7, 239-pound center has averaged 16 points and 9.8 rebounds the past four games.

    Guard Marina Mabrey has shot 50% in Dallas’ previous four games, including 48% from behind the arc, and averaged 21.8 points. Fellow guard Allisha Gray has averaged 14 points and 4.3 rebounds over that stretch.

    “It’s a really tough matchup,” Miller said. “Dallas reminds me of 2021 Chicago. They got hot at the end of the year. They’re a .500 team, right? They have much better talent than a .500 team.”

    Jones said, “This is the time for us to be peaking and I think we’re ready.”

    n.griffen@theday.com

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