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Five Sun players scored in double figures, including Alyssa Thomas who had a double-double in her fourth game back from an Achilles tear.
Thursday night didn’t feel like Game 2 of a best-of-five semifinals series to the Sky, it felt like another single-elimination game.
At least, that was their mentality. The Sky have played their best basketball of the season with their backs up against a single-elimination wall.
After allowing the Sky to jump out to an early 11-0 lead, the Sun’s No. 1-rated defense showed up. It held the Sky to one of their lowest scoring nights of the year en route to a 79-68 series-tying win. The Sky were outscored 21-9 in the fourth quarter.
Before the game, Sun coach/general manager Curt Miller stressed the importance of holding the Sky to under 80 points on less than 45% shooting.
The Sky have won just two games this year when they score less than 80 points. The Sky’s 68 points Thursday night came on 39.7% shooting.
“They’re an offensive juggernaut,” Miller said. “What we’ve come to realize is you can’t do the same thing for 40 minutes. I thought we did a better job tonight doing multiple things.”
WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones went scoreless through the first half playing less than 10 minutes. She finished with just four points on 22.2% shooting. The Sun’s backcourt picked up the slack, Jasmine Thomas and Briann January had 12 points each and slowed things down for the Sky.
Offensively it was a more balanced performance from the Sun. On Tuesday night, the Sun’s frontcourt carried them. Brionna Jones and Jonquel scored a combined 48 points while the rest of the Sun combined for 47. In Game 2, five Sun players scored in double figures. Alyssa Thomas, in her fourth game back from an Achilles tear, had a double-double for the Sun with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was her physicality,” Stefanie Dolson said. “She rebounds hard, goes hard to the basket. A lot of times we were in rotation but we have to get there earlier and honestly just play harder.”
Sky coach/general manager James Wade stressed the importance of taking care of the ball in Game 2 after his team gave up 19 points off of turnovers in their double-overtime win Tuesday night. They only had 11 turnovers but were outrebounded 39-26.
Kahleah Copper was limited offensively in Game 1 but remained engaged through her nearly 41 minutes of play and two overtimes. She came up with big defensive stops and took away second-chance looks by the Sun. On Thursday, she was the Sky’s leading scorer with 13 points and had three steals.
Candace Parker added 12 points, four assists and seven rebounds while Courtney Vandersloot and Azura Stevens each scored 10 points.
The Sky were able to get everyone involved, with every player who got minutes scoring except rookie Dana Evans. The Sky went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, but allowed the Sun to control the offensive glass.
Both Miller and Wade discussed the difficult travel plans for their teams to get to Chicago. The Sky will leave Connecticut at 3:30 a.m. Friday and will be divided between three separate flights. The Sun also will be split between three flights out of two separate airports.
“In the middle of the semifinals these two teams are taking [six flights] from multiple airports,” Miller said. “So tomorrow is going to be off, I’m assuming for both of us. But then we’ll get back to work. That’s what these amazing women, the best in the world at what they do go through.”