What the Sun need to do to advance to the WNBA Finals

'She’s just a warrior': Alyssa Thomas led Sun to series lead

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Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun shoots the ball against the Las Vegas Aces in Game Three of the Semifinals of the 2020 WNBAPlayoffs on September 24, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

At 9 p.m. Tuesday night Alyssa Thomas was on the sideline in a sling as the final seconds ticked off in the Sun’s Game 2 loss against the Las Vegas Aces.

At 9:45 p.m. Thursday night Thomas was back in the starting lineup, tape on her shoulder instead of a sling.

Her final stat line, 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals, was one that many people have come to expect from Thomas, came as a surprise given her dislocated shoulder.

The injury report was released Wednesday evening and Thomas was listed as “out” and was listed as “questionable” as of 12:52 p.m. Thursday afternoon. 

When head coach Curt Miller talked to the media 65 minutes before the tip-off, he said he did not know if Thomas would play and that she was a game-time decision. He added that her MRI showed no new significant damage and the injury was a pain management issue. 

“She just continues to defy logic at times with her toughness and how much pain and how much she plays through,” Miller said after the game. 

Thomas indicated that she wanted to play and Miller said that after shootaround, “You could see that she, she wanted to go, and she’s just a warrior. There's nothing else you can say. She just is as competitive as a person as I've ever been around.”

However, her teammates admitted after the game that there was never a doubt in her mind she would be playing and playing at her usual level. 

“I've known AT a long time so I knew what we were going to get today. If she steps on the court, she's giving her all and she's coming ready to play to the best of her ability,” said Brionna Jones, who has known Thomas since they both played at Maryland. 

Jones added, “From the tip she was herself, she was rebounding and pushing the ball so I just knew that she was ready to play like she was going to be fine.” 

Miller did not expect Thomas to be playing at close to 100 percent, saying, “I thought we were gonna have to be creative, getting her in and out. I thought that there would be maybe some plays that the physicality that you're used to, the tenacity that you're used to, we might get a bit of a shell of that. But she only knows one way to play. So, even if she wanted to be smart. She only knows one way to play.”

Thomas admitted that she has never dislocated her shoulder this badly before. 

“It was very painful going out and going in. The next day I was super sore that was to be expected. I'm used to it, I knew what to expect, but that wasn't going to stop me. I think we have a great opportunity in this series. I want to be a part of it and once I heard that it was up to me, I knew that I would be out there,” she said. 

Thomas’ presence was the difference maker for the Sun down the stretch. She had four points and two steals in the final 90 seconds, making defensive plays the team was unable to make in her absence in Game 2. 

“We just feed off of her. We feed off her tenacity, we feed off the competitiveness. She was demanding that we played harder throughout the game. There was a stretch there early in the third quarter that we weren't playing with the tenacity and the energy that we needed and she was challenging people. And so we just feed off the energy,” Curt Miller said about Thomas. 

Offensively, the team was different too, ending the game on a 20-4 run Thursday night, including eight fourth quarter points from Thomas. 

Throughout the playoffs the Sun have relied on its defense, something the team will have to continue to do in order to end the series Sunday. 

Despite not shooting the ball well, 39.0 percent from the floor and 9.1 percent from three, Connecticut was able to stay in the game committing just four turnovers. 

“There was a huge emphasis on it [turnovers] throughout the season. We know that we've been more successful, we've won games when we take care of the ball so that's just everybody being confident and making smart decisions and taking care of the ball,” Jasmine Thomas said.

The Sun also increased its points in the pain from 20 in Game 2 to 52 in Game 3, with DeWanna Bonner, Jones and Alyssa Thomas recording double doubles in points and rebounds. Success in the paint has often translated into success in the other facets of the team’s game, and will be critical for the team in Game 4. 

“We're going to take it one game at a time. But we're gonna bring our best effort on Sunday. We know that they're going to come out hard because we have an opportunity to end this series, but as you can see we're fighting, we're playing hard basketball here. Tonight we didn't shoot the ball well, but we still found a way to get it done,” Alyssa Thomas said. 

The Sun return to the court for Game 4 against the Aces on Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. ET.