Connecticut Sun 85, Phoenix Mercury 70 — The only game of the day on Monday in the WNBA was a pretty notable one. Behind 25 points from DeWanna Bonner and a near triple-double by Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut jumped on Phoenix early, withstood a run, and then pulled away in the second half to get the 15 point win. In the process, the Sun clinched a playoff spot with two games left to play and snapped a six game winning streak by the Mercury.
The key to the game for Connecticut was always going to be slowing down Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Anyone with a vague awareness of hoops could have told you that, up to and including the Mercury and Taurasi and Diggins-Smith themselves. So, when you look at the box score at the end and see that the Phoenix duo combined to go 10-for-30 from the field, including a really awful 1-for-9 from behind the arc by Taurasi, I think it’s safe to say “Mission Accomplished” on that note. Phoenix still got 35 points from the two combined, but the Sun did a quality job on defense overall as no other Mercury player cleared double digits and Phoenix shot just 35% from the field in the game.
Connecticut had a seven point lead at the end of the first quarter, but Phoenix was able to cut that to just a single point during the second quarter. A Bonner bucket as time expired in the first half gave the Sun a six point advantage at the intermission, so to a certain extent, it’s like that Phoenix rally didn’t happen. The game officially tipped over about midway through the third quarter. A triple from Diggins-Smith made it a three-point game, 45-42, favoring Connecticut with 5:52 left in the period. 10 straight points from the Sun, kickstarted by back-to-back threes from Bonner blew the doors on the lead open, and the Mercury were playing off their back foot from there.
It was a nine point game heading to the start of the fourth quarter, and Connecticut scored the first seven points of the frame — including a three from Marquette’s very own Natisha Hiedeman to make a definitive statement about where this game was going over the remaining eight minutes. Phoenix would briefly reduce the lead to just nine with 5:58 to go on a three-pointer from Sophie Cunningham, but Hiedeman would answer with one of her own. Taurasi got an and-1 to get it back to nine with 2:25 to go, but the Mercury were just out of time at that point.
Bonner finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, and three assists against the franchise that she played for over the past 10 seasons in the WNBA to lead Connecticut to the win in her first game against her old team. Alyssa Thomas had 22 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists to provide the backup push. Hiedeman played a major role in this game with Jasmine Thomas limited to just 97 seconds of playing time early on. Hiedeman was out there for 28 minutes, scoring eight points on 3-for-8 shooting, including 2-for-4 from behind the arc. She also added two rebounds and an assist to the playoff clinching victory.
After trailing by 12 in the second quarter, the Clippers rallied to make it a two point game, 59-57, at the half. They kept pushing from there to briefly take a lead, but Denver responded and eventually a triple from Nikola Jokic put the Nuggets back up by 10 with 7:11 to go in the third. LA bounced back again, and with just 2:39 left in the quarter, Lou Williams put the Clippers in front, 83-82 on a long range bomb.
That still wasn’t enough to tip the scales for Los Angeles, as they would go into the fourth trailing by four points, and Denver would take a seven point lead just over four minutes into the period on a Jerami Grant three-pointer.
Finally the Clippers made their big push. Eight straight for LA capped by a three from Williams again put them back in front, and after Denver retook the lead, a dunk from Ivica Zubac tied it at 101 and his followup free throw on the and-1 put LA out in front for good.
That was with 4:51 to go. The big play that everyone’s gonna talk about for a while happened with just under two minutes left with the Clippers up six, 109-103. Jamal Murray, who ended up with just 14 points in this one, seemed to be prepared to emphatically cut the lead to four with 1:47 to go. Kawhi Leonard made juuuuuuust enough of a block, literally getting just one finger on the ball to make the block. Check it out.
Kawhi’s block sealed the W for the Clippers! pic.twitter.com/Db8Xn6e8DD— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 8, 2020
Leonard finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists to go with his Eff You block, which was not the only one of the game for him. Paul George was the high scorer of the game, getting 32 points for Doc’s squad on 12-for-18 shooting, including a very great 5-for-7 night from behind the arc.
Up Next: Connecticut returns to action on Wednesday evening, when they’ll turn around and play the Mercury again right away. That game will be streamed live on the WNBA’s Facebook page with tipoff set for 6pm Central.
Doc and the Clips are back at it on Wednesday as well. They’ll look to take a 3-1 lead on Denver with tipoff on ESPN scheduled for 8pm Central.