Did you enjoy Tuesday night’s win for the Connecticut Sun?
They defeated the Chicago Sky, 94-81, in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Playoffs, and yes, that’s that for the first round, as it was a single elimination game. After a first quarter largely controlled by the Sky, the Sun took over in the second before Chicago rallied to make it a tie game, 41-all, at the half. It was pretty much all Connecticut all the time after that, or at least for the part of the game that still mattered. The Sun scored the first six points of the third quarter as a part of a 13-2 run, and they just kept it going from there. They would lead by 16 at the start of the fourth and just barely missed out on getting it to 20 midway through the period.
Connecticut was led by a pair of 20 point double-doubles, as DeWanna Bonner had 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Alyssa Thomas went full PLAYOFF AT with a game high 28 points to go with a game high 13 rebounds plus eight assists, too. We’re here for the activity of former Marquette star Natisha Hiedeman, of course, and she had a limited role in this game. Jasmine Thomas was healthy enough to play 25 minutes, and that ultimately led to Hiedeman getting just five minutes of run. She still hit a three, grabbed two rebounds, and dished an assist in her time on the court in a WNBA playoff game, so that’s pretty awesome.
The win advances Connecticut to the second round where they will tangle with the #3 seeded Los Angeles Sparks. This is because the Sun were the #7 seed and the #5 seeded Phoenix Mercury won the other first round single elimination game on Tuesday. The WNBA reseeds the bracket after the first round, which means the low seed — Connecticut — has to play the #3 seed as opposed to the #4 seed.
Los Angeles went 15-7 this season to earn that #3 seed. That includes a pair of wins over Connecticut. It should be pointed out that both games were competitive with LA winning by five points in the first one and just four in the other. The first game was part of Connecticut’s five game losing streak to start the season as the Sun and head coach Curt Miller were figuring out what they were as a team. The second loss came in late August, and it was actually the Sun’s first game since the WNBA halted play following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. A back-and-forth first half ultimately led to Connecticut building an 11 point lead in the third quarter before the Sparks rallied and surpassed the Sun down the stretch.
Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray are the 1-2 scoring punch on this Sparks roster, going for 14.7 and 14.0 points respectively while playing 30-plus minutes a night on average in every game this season. Parker leads the team in rebounding as well, nearly averaging a double-double at 9.7 per game, while the 5’11” Gray tops the stat sheet in assists at 5.3 per outing. While Parker and Gray are the only Sparks players to appear in all 22 games this season, 10 players are averaging at least 11 minutes per game. Now, it’s possible that the mishmash of people filling in while people were out for whatever reason helps explain that to a certain extent. Still, you don’t average more than a quarter of the game played if head coach Derek Fisher doesn’t want you playing that much.
It should be noted that Connecticut and Los Angeles squared off in the playoffs in 2019 as the Sun made their run to the WNBA Finals. Last year, it was the Sparks as the #3 seed as well, beating #6 Seattle fairly easily to advance to a five game set with #2 seed Connecticut. After a nine point win in Game 1, the Sun won by 26 and 22 in the two remaining games to pick up the relatively easy sweep. That Sun roster was wildly different, of course, so it remains to be seen if Curt Miller can coach Derek Fisher into the ground again this time. 40 minutes of basketball is the difference between the season ending and a semifinals five game series against Las Vegas for the Sun, so it should be interesting to watch if nothing else.