The good, the bad, the ugly and silver linings of the Sun's win over the Liberty
Reason for hope in Connecticut as the playoffs loom
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Connecticut Sun v New York Liberty PALMETTO, FL - SEPTEMBER 1: Brionna Jones #42 of the Connecticut Sun shoots the ball against the New York Liberty on September 1, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
Tuesday night the Connecticut Sun accomplished a statistical feat they had not accomplished since they were still the Orlando Miracle.
Connecticut held their second straight opponent to less than 20 made field goals Tuesday night against the Liberty (19 FGM), after also holding the Washington Mystics to 19 field goals on Aug. 30, something the team had not done since July 2002.
The feat had not been accomplished by any team since the Phoenix Mercury did so in September 2015.
Here is the good, the bad, the ugly, and the silver linings of the Sun’s 70-65 win.
The Sun’s defense is good, historically good, accomplishing a statistical feat that hadn’t been done in five years good.
Coming into the game head coach Curt Miller knew shutting down Amanda Zahui B., who had big games in both of the Liberty’s wins, would be key.
Miller said the team is “hanging our hat” on defense and the Sun limited the Liberty’s five starters to just 16 combined points. Layshia Clarendon, who was on the Sun last season, was the only starter to make multiple field goals.
Connecticut is second in the league in steals, averaging 9.7 steals per game and had 12 against the Liberty.
Despite the team’s defensive success, it’s not something that Briann January wants to talk a lot about, saying, “I want it to speak for itself ... I think everybody's buying into it and we value defense because we've seen what it can do for us. It creates our offense, it allows us to get good possessions. I mean if we're taking good shots we're getting our defense set it's all connected.”
As the playoffs near, the defense will be key for the Sun as they hope to make a run against talented offensive teams.
Another positive for the Sun is the play of DeWanna Bonner, who had 27 points, 12 rebounds, an assist, and a steal for her fourth double-double of the season.
WNBA @WNBADeWanna Bonner with another double-double performance 💪 #WatchMeWork | #BradentonArea https://t.co/hWKFTXS5VR
Even when the offense was hard to come by, Bonner got to the free-throw line, making 12 of her 13 free throw attempts.
Bonner who tries to be aggressive when she plays, explained her thought process of getting to the line saying, “That kind of makes up for a missed shot right? If I can get there, whether I make the shot or not, it still counts as two points if I can knock down the free throws.”
As long as Bonner can still put up big numbers the Sun will be competitive in games, which will be key as games with playoff implications are on the horizon.
The Sun, like most teams in the league, are banged up. After playing seven players for the last three-quarters of Sunday’s game against the Mystics, the Sun were able to get a couple of players back, though Jasmine Thomas and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did not play.
Jasmine Thomas is dealing with plantar fasciitis and Miller noted that is not a clear timetable for her return but said she was “day-to-day.”
“She has a plantar issue, and we're trying to get her healthy where she can play comfortably. We made the determination tonight that she was not going to play. We hope to have her back quickly, but she's in some discomfort right now,” Miller said.
Thomas finding her rhythm offensively helped the Sun as they started to win games and someone will have to step up to fill in the gap as the season continues if she is unable to play soon.
Mosqueda-Lewis has missed the last three games with a back injury and has not played since Aug. 22. Though she has struggled to find her shot, she has still provided valuable minutes off the bench for the Sun who have been forced to play their starters for extended minutes of late.
The silver lining of injuries for the Sun is the return of Bria Holmes (Achilles) and Brionna Jones (ankle) who did not play against the Mystics. Miller commended both players for their performance against the Liberty and their toughness.
“Really, really happy to have Bria Holmes back. She's obviously still dealing with some Achilles discomfort but you see now that she's fresh,” Miller said.
He added, “Her speed, her athleticism can really help us and she played really hard tonight, and she had a really good defensive night, she was disruptive in her minutes. She didn't make a shot offensively, but she really impacted the game. In fact, the veterans didn't want her out the last three minutes, and there's no better compliment than when your veterans are desiring for her to be in the game.”
In the middle of her availability, Bonner took the time to give an individual shout-out to Holmes.
“She's been hurt, and she came back, she didn't shoot the ball well but she has some key moments to where we started our best break in the third quarter, so actually she started that third quarter, those two defensive steals on Kia Nurse and that bothered her a little bit took her out of the rhythm,” she said.
Miller said that Jones played because she knew that the game was important for the team’s playoff implications.
“[It’s] a credit to her toughness and playing through an ankle injury that some may not have played,” Miller said.
Alyssa Thomas was glad to have Jones back, saying, “I mean Bri Jones is a huge part of what we do, she's a monster on the boards, her defensive presence is huge for us so not having her out there last game was tough and I know I'm happy to have her back in. She did great tonight.”
As Connecticut continues to play every other day until the end of the season, the team will need to continue to battle through and try to remain as healthy as possible, though that becomes more and more difficult each day.
The Sun’s offense was ugly Tuesday night, making 32.9 percent of their shots from the floor and just 26.7 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
Miller acknowledged his team’s offensive woes but also offered a reason for hope for the next time the team struggles on offense.
“Our offense really struggled tonight. We didn't make a lot of shots I think we made two shots in the first half outside the paint. Their zone bothered us, I think we went 0-8, the first eight possessions against their zone, he said.
He later added, “We just, we had a really poor offensive night but you learn in a hurry that you can win a lot of games when you play the type of defense and we're capable of playing.”
January was not defeated by their poor offensive performance.
“Every time we executed we got something good, we got some good shots, we just didn't hit a lot of them ... Our toughness just to kind of grind out a win like that is promising because they're not all going to be pretty,” she said.
Going forward the Sun’s offense will need to be better to secure a playoff spot and make a run.
The Sun return to the court on Sept. 3 to take on the Las Vegas Aces at 8 p.m. ET.