Alyssa Thomas worked hard for eight months rehabbing her torn Achilles’ tendon to be able to play for the Connecticut Sun in the playoffs.
“You think how far ahead of schedule she is in her Achilles’ rehab to get back at all and playing is amazing.” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “To play in this environment in this big a game and have that tenacity and intensity is remarkable. Players have to follow her and respect her. A night when it wasn’t (Jonquel Jones’) night. Her presence for us was invaluable.”
The Sun led 45-39 at the half behind a strong play by Thomas, who finished the opening 20 minutes with 12 points.
“You’ve seen her do it over her career. She’s the toughest player to play this game,” Sun guard Jasmine Thomas said. “To see her come back at a time where that’s what we were missing.”
Connecticut trailed 59-58 heading into the fourth quarter before starting the period on a 13-3 outburst to take control of the game. Thomas had six points during that run. Bonner capped it on a trey with 3:59 left making it 71-62.
“It was our balance. Having five people who want to score without forcing,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “On a night when it wasn’t JJ’s night, we had so much balance.”
Connecticut won despite WNBA MVP Jones scoring just four points. She didn’t score until 3:11 left in the third quarter but was a defensive presence on the floor.
Thomas, who has played through shoulder injuries throughout her career, was able to return from a surgery in January from an injury she suffered playing overseas last winter.
“This is one of the hardest things I’ve gone through,” she said. “I watched them get after it every game and in practice that pushed me even harder to get back to this moment.”
Kahleah Copper led Chicago with 13 points and Candace Parker added 12.
“You hate to waste one of those good defensive games on her with a loss,” Chicago coach James Wade said. “It teaches you something for the next game.”
Both teams are going to have adventures getting to Chicago on Friday. Game 3 is Sunday in Chicago.