Defense fuels offense for the Connecticut Sun

Sun starting to put all the pieces together for a late-season run

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PALMETTO, FL - AUGUST 18: Jasmine Thomas #5 of the Connecticut Sun shoots the ball against the Indiana Fever on August 18, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

During the second quarter Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller did something unusual for a coach, he hopped on the bike after another missed layup for the Sun. 

Miller revealed at halftime that he got on the bike because of “missed layup stress.”

After the game, he elaborated and said, “Oh, that definitely helped. I needed to take my mind off some of the missed layups and get back level to knowing that we were playing a heck of a defensive half. And that we were going to be okay.”

The team was more than okay, beating the Fever 84-62 achieving their goal of winning the first game in the series. 

However, Miller had a reason to be stressed, as the Sun missed 12 shots within eight feet of the basket before halftime. Once the team started making their shots in the fourth quarter and the Fever started to run out of gas, Connecticut’s lead began to grow. 

The Sun went on an 18-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter, ballooning its lead to 22 with 2:33 left in the game. 

Jasmine Thomas credited the team’s late success to a few simple adjustments, saying, “I think in the first half, it was missing some easy shots whether they were wide open or just layups around the rim. Once we just locked in and started to focus more offensively and get the shots we wanted to go in and we were able to pull away a little bit but that also has to do with our defense. We talked a lot in the second half about getting three stops in a row, put the emphasis on it.”

Over the last several games the Sun have proven the team is capable of closing out games late, something they struggled to do even two weeks ago. 

Miller knows his team’s 5-7 record isn’t indicative of its abilities and that they can be dangerous as the season ends and the playoffs begin. 

“Those are the games that sometimes got scary early in the season,” Miller said about the team creating separation in the fourth quarter. 

“I mean think about what we've done. Now after that 0-5 start and even in that 0-5 start we were in games and had halftime leads in a lot of those games. So, our record still doesn't indicate that we played good basketball down here, but we are really getting better,” he continued. 

Connecticut’s defense has improved over the last two weeks, something Alyssa Thomas believes is critical. 

“For me, I think our defense propels our offense. When we're locked in on defense, everything's clicking on offense, you feel good,” she said. 

“So, part of it was just, we weren't comfortable and the more we're playing with each other, the more we're learning what each other does and as you can see now we're just starting to string the wins together,” Thomas continued. 

DeWanna Bonner is proud of the team stringing wins together, saying, “I'm super proud of this team because we know we could lay down and quit and just gave up when everybody else was winning, and we were kind of a laughingstock for a little bit …And now we're clicking at the right time … I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”

The Sun return to the court on Aug.19 at 10 p.m. ET against the Las Vegas Aces.

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