Hello and welcome to the 2020 WNBA semifinals!
The Connecticut Sun have reached this stage of the playoffs this season by way of a first round single elimination victory over the Chicago Sky and a second round single elimination win over the Los Angeles Sparks! It’s the second straight season in the semifinals for the Sun. I’m not going to try and convince you that this is entirely because head coach and general manager Curt Miller put former Marquette great Natisha Hiedeman on the roster, but I am going to point out the coincidence.
Anyway, we didn’t talk about the win over the Sparks at all! Let’s dive into that.
Connecticut picked up that win on Thursday night, besting Los Angeles by a margin of 73-59. Outside of an early flurry from the Sparks where they held a four point lead when the game was still in single digits, the Sun had control the entire way through. In fact, it was Connecticut bouncing back from that 6-2 Sparks start that tipped things in the Sun’s favor. The Sun ripped through a 15-0 run capped by two free throws from Brionna Jones to take a 17-6 lead with 2:04 left in the first. That run would extend to 20-2 by the end of the quarter, and DeWanna Bonner broke the ice on the second quarter with a layup to put Connecticut up 24-8.
Quite honestly, there’s your ball game.
I mean, sure, LA scored the next seven points to make the game look pretend close at 24-15, and the Sparks would eventually get it to just six points with 3:38 to go in the first half. We can pretend that made it a game, or we can acknowledge that the Sun scored 10 straight to close the half after that. That made it 39-23 at intermission, and the Sparks never got it back within 10.
All five Connecticut starters scored in double digits, led by 19 points from Alyssa Thomas, who had her usual all around game with seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. DeWanna Bonner showed why she was maybe the biggest offseason acquisition in the league by tallying 17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Hiedeman played just four minutes here, which is kind of surprising given the margin through the entire second half along with Jasmine Thomas’ injury issues. Anyway, the 2019 Big East Player of the Year didn’t get a shot off in the game, and only added an assist to the box score to ruin her attempt at recording a trillion in a WNBA Playoff game.
As you can see from that #1 up at the top of the page, Las Vegas is the top seed in the tournament after tying with Seattle for the best record in the Wubble at 18-4. I think it’s safe to say that the Aces are a heavy favorite over Connecticut in this series. Las Vegas won the season series 2-0 after a pair of double digit victories. The first meeting went 99-78 in the Aces’ favor, and matchup #2 wasn’t much different at 93-78. Both games were long after the Sun started out the year 0-5, so those two losses are part of the 10-7 finish to the year by Connecticut.
Las Vegas is led by 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. She played and started in all 22 games, averaging 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, plus a steal and two blocks per contest. Hey, good news: The 6’4” forward out of South Carolina doesn’t shoot threes.
One of the reasons why LV was so good this year (other than the obvious “they have many good players” concept) is that they were able to roll out the same lineup constantly. They had the same starters in 21 of 22 games this season, and four of them started all 22.
The rebounding battle will be an interesting one in this game. Connecticut led the league in offensive rebounding rate in the regular season, while Las Vegas had the best defensive rebounding rate. Someone has to come out ahead in that battle of two strengths, and if Connecticut can make use of multiple second chances, that can be enough to keep them competitive with the Aces.
From a certain point of view, playing Las Vegas is an easier task for the Sun than their first two playoff games. In their single elimination games, Connecticut played the two best effective field goal percentage offenses in the league, with Chicago hitting 54.7% of their shots and Los Angeles getting 53.5% to fall. Las Vegas had the sixth best eFG% in the regular season, shooting 50.7% on the year. It’s not like that’s a huge drop off in percentages, obviously, but it is an easier hill to climb for Connecticut.
Because I know you’re asking: Connecticut finished 11th out of 12 teams in eFG%, beating out only the 2-20 New York Liberty. I think I figured out why Connecticut likes to hit the offensive glass so hard.
Here’s the schedule for the series! We’ll update it if/when it’s needed.
Las Vegas/Connecticut Semifinals Schedule
|1||Sunday, September 20||12:00 PM||ESPN|
|2||Tuesday, September 22||8:00 PM||ESPN2|
|3||Thursday, September 24||6:30 PM||ESPN2|
|4||Sunday, September 27||12:00 PM||ESPN|
|5||Tuesday, September 29||6:30 PM||ESPN2|