UNCASVILLE, Conn. — With their backs in opposition to the wall (once more) within the WNBA playoffs, the Connecticut Sun discovered one other gear. Main the best way was the participant they name “the Machine,” Alyssa Thomas.
She had the primary triple-double in WNBA Finals historical past Thursday because the Sun beat the Las Vegas Aces 105-76 in Sport 3 of the best-of-five collection after shedding the primary two video games out on the famed Strip. If anybody thought the Sun would roll over for an Aces sweep … nicely, nobody who follows the WNBA thought that. It is simply not the Sun’s character.
They misplaced an in depth Sport 1 on Sunday and a not-so-close Sport 2 on Tuesday at Michelob Extremely Enviornment in Las Vegas. However again dwelling at Mohegan Sun Enviornment in entrance of their followers, the Sun summoned the mojo they wanted to pressure Sport 4, which will likely be this Sunday right here in Connecticut (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“If you could encapsulate Connecticut, it’s physical and very resilient,” Aces coach Becky Hammon mentioned of the Sun. “They have kind of a battle-type mentality, and we didn’t match that tonight, in any category. They just kicked our ass in every way possible.”
Of Thomas, who completed with 16 factors, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, Hammon mentioned, “She’s a beast. I went to a UFC fight the other night; I would not want to get in the cage with her. She is just tough. Tough, tough, tough. And then a playmaker.”
The 6-foot-2 Thomas, 30, was the No. 4 choose within the 2014 WNBA draft out of Maryland, which she led to the ladies’s Ultimate 4 her senior yr.
Thomas is a troublesome — if not inconceivable — participant to match to anybody else within the WNBA. Her longtime shoulder accidents (torn labrums in each that haven’t been surgically repaired) hold her from having an precise leap shot, however that does not matter. Thomas has discovered her personal methods to get the ball within the hoop, and he or she’s so artful and robust, it is laborious to cease her.
Thomas is actually a degree ahead, with how a lot she handles the ball and appears to create alternatives for her teammates. And rebounding? Effectively, as Hammon mentioned, there’s nothing about Thomas that makes you assume you’ll outmuscle or outhustle her.
“What’s remarkable is that’s every day. She doesn’t know how else to play,” Sun coach Curt Miller mentioned of Thomas’ power. “She’s probably the toughest player I’ve ever coached, but she’s the most consistent player in terms of effort that I’ve ever been around.”
Consistency was missing in some regards for the Sun within the first two video games of the Finals, which put them in a win-or-go-home scenario. However they confronted that within the first spherical after they needed to go to Dallas to shut out a best-of-three collection and within the semifinals and after they beat defending champion Chicago twice on the Sky’s homecourt, together with within the deciding Sport 5.
Thursday, the Aces obtained off to a 9-2 begin, however that was the extent of their management of this recreation. As if a change was flipped, the Sun’s power degree skyrocketed they usually led 34-19 after the primary quarter. By recreation’s finish, all of the Sun’s starters had scored in double figures, led by 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones with 20 factors.
DeWanna Bonner, after going 2 of 18 from the sphere within the first two video games of the Finals, went 8 of 15 Thursday for 18 factors, together with serving to maintain Aces guard Chelsea Grey to 11 factors.
However the star of the evening was Thomas, whose triple-double was her third of this season, additionally a WNBA report. There have been 19 triple-doubles in WNBA historical past — three within the playoffs, the others by Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot and Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes — however they’re changing into a lot much less uncommon than they was once. Eight of the 19 have come this season, and two had been final season.
That displays extra positionless play, which the WNBA is seeing simply because the NBA has been. In Thomas’ case, it is about her capacity to have the ability to play each as a real put up but additionally as somebody who can float round and simply make issues occur for herself or her teammates.
And on an evening when the Sun’s season might have been over, Thomas led the best way in prepared it to proceed.
“For me, I approached the game like I approached any other game,” Thomas mentioned. “I think we just wanted it. We’ve been struggling offensively. We haven’t really been hitting shots and tonight we came out ready.”