Okay, so Natisha Hiedeman and the Connecticut Sun aren’t going to go sailing into the WNBA Finals this year like they did in 2019. In Game 2 of their best-of-five semifinal series against the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night, the Sun suffered an attack of “MVP A’ja Wilson proves she’s the MVP” as the Aces pulled away late in the game and evened the series up at one win each.
It was a hell of a game to watch, with the largest margin through three quarters coming when DeWanna Bonner hammered in a three-pointer to put Connecticut up 53-46 with 7:10 left in the third quarter. A 6-0 run spanning the break between the third and the fourth quarters gave Connecticut the second largest lead that they had in the contest, 65-59. With Alyssa Thomas out since the first quarter with an arm injury, it was clear that Connecticut was going to have to outlast the Aces, and Brionna Jones put the Sun back out in front, 71-69, with 4:36 to go.
It would be Connecticut’s final lead of the game.
They had their chances to win. Brionna Jones scored with 1:18 to play to tie the game at 75, and it was clear that stops were needed. Except the Aces have A’ja Wilson. The 2020 WNBA MVP scored on an and-1 on Las Vegas’ next possession, and then after a turnover by Bonner, Wilson scored on a drive and drew the foul again. She didn’t get the freebie, but Dearica Hamby snared the rebound and stuck it back to put Las Vegas up 82-75.
There’s your game. That didn’t decide the game, sure, but that definitely ended it.
This is a Natisha Hiedeman themed blog, of course, so we have to mention that she played just over three minutes total in this game. A lone assist was her only contribution to the stat sheet in that time, as the Sun went with a larger lineup for large chunks of the game with Beatrice Mompremier getting 20 minutes off the bench next to Bonner.
The question is, quite obviously, what can the Sun do without Alyssa Thomas? Sure, they managed to patch it together and play a competitive game without her in Game 2. But knowing that she’s not going to be available — head coach Curt Miller has already ruled her out even if her testing results are still pending as I type this — is a totally different thing than not knowing what’s happening during the game you’re actively playing. Can Connecticut figure out a game plan to topple the Aces without their do-it-all star?
To a certain extent, with or without Thomas, Connecticut dug their own hole against the Aces in Game 2. The Sun committed 17 turnovers in the game, and that’s way too many in a 40 minute game. Six of them were forced by Las Vegas in the fourth quarter alone, and that’s only counting the ones that were specifically forced by the Aces as opposed to mere Connecticut player error. On top of that, Las Vegas went to the free throw line 28 times in the game. Ignoring the fact that the Sun only shot seven free throws themselves for a moment, you’re just not going to beat the best team in the league if you’re letting them shoot 28 times with the clock stopped. This is made even worse by the fact that Las Vegas went 0-for-4 from behind the arc in the game. Attacking the rim was the entire LVA gameplan, and Connecticut did them a major favor with all of the fouls.