Uncasville, Conn. — When the playoffs starts it seems like Suns’ Jonquel Jones takes her game to another stratosphere of sorts.
Jones scored 19 points and eight boards, Alyssa Thomas chipped in 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and the Connecticut Sun defeated the Dallas Wings 93-68 on Thursday night in Game 1 of their first-round series at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The loss marks Dallas’ eighth straight playoff loss, tying the league’s longest losing streak in postseason history.
The Sun used a 10-0 spurt four minutes in Thursday’s game to subdue the Wings. Dallas trimmed the deficit to three points but a 13-0 run from Connecticut in the third put the game out of reach for good. Connecticut led by as many 20.
“I’ve never been around someone that’s as consistent with her effort, her passion to play,” Miller said of Thomas. “She sees things before they happen, really understands the game, so that combination of effort, basketball IQ makes her really special. There’s no one in this league that plays harder. There’s no one. Zero. There’s no one in this league that’s more versatile, that can guard more positions than her.”
With 30 seconds left in the contest, 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones sat on the bench with a towel wrapped over her head. The Sun was up by plenty, so she bent down and untied her sneakers. She put in a night’s work.
For the first time in two years, the Sun started the WNBA playoffs with a win.
“We’re locked in. We’re focused. We know what playoffs are all about,” the Sun’s Alyssa Thomas said. “Everyone’s talking about how they beat us in the regular season, but those wins don’t matter because it’s all about how you finish. They’re coming into our house. We’re hungry and we’re ready and it’s a dogfight out there.”
The Connecticut’s starters paced the offense, especially after backup center Brionna Jones took a seat on the bench after being called for her third personal foul six minutes into the second quarter.
“When we’re best is when we have great balance,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “So you look at our shot distribution, we had great shot distribution among players. We didn’t get stuck playing through one action or one person tonight and it was an overall great team effort.”
The Sun defense held Dallas’ center Teaira McCowan to just six shot attempts and seven points in 27 minutes. Their suffocating defense forced the Wings into 17 turnovers, which resulted in 20 points.
Playing without leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale, who is out for the first round of playoffs due to an injury, Dallas had to rely heavily on Satou Sabally.
Playing in her first game since July 12, Sabally came off the bench and was an instant spark for Dallas. In her first three minutes, she scored six points including a half-court buzzer-beater to end the first quarter and trimmed Dallas’ deficit to three points. By halftime, she led Dallas with 10 points and two boards but the Wings went into the break still down by ten 47-37.
Allisha Gray led Dallas with 17 points. Tyasha Harris chipped in 13 points and Marina Mabrey had 11.
“We did not show energy. We did not come out to play basketball,” Dallas coach Vickie Johnson said. “We didn’t throw the first punch; they threw the first punch. I didn’t recognize our team tonight. We went back to our old habits, complaining, not taking accountability, looking at ourselves first.”
The Sun host Dallas on Sunday at Mohegan at noon (ESPN) for Game 2 of the series. If the Wings win, a third and deciding game will be played in Dallas on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the semifinals.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday in Uncasville.
“We’ve been working the entire season to be here, so we don’t want to squander this opportunity,” Jones said of the home-court advantage. “We got to come up with that right intensity.”