Alyssa Thomas, dislocated shoulder and all, lifts CT Sun to pivotal Game 3 win over Aces

The Sun didn’t need to learn how to win without Alyssa Thomas after all.

Some 48 hours after dislocating her right shoulder in a Game 2 semifinal playoff loss, Thomas was miraculously back on the floor for Connecticut against top-seeded Las Vegas — and not merely as a bystander. She was a fixture in a gritty 77-68 win on Thursday night that moved Connecticut to the brink of returning to the WNBA Finals.

The Sun (14-13), up 2-1 in the series, will look to close out the best-of-five on Sunday (1 p.m.) at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

“From the tip, she was herself,” said teammate Brionna Jones. “She was rebounding and pushing the ball. I knew she was going to be fine.”

It was a drastic change from Wednesday, when head coach Curt Miller said the Sun were “planning on moving ahead without her.” Thomas, the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, who has long played with two torn labrums, was listed as out before her status was upgraded to questionable Thursday.

Thomas received encouraging news after an MRI revealed no additional damage. Once doctors cleared her, she knew she’d give it a go.

Miller, for the most part, knew it, too.

“She’s just a warrior,” Miller said, adding that Thomas’ toughness defies logic. “There’s nothing else you can say. You’re going to have to amputate that arm and shoulder before it’s going to keep her out.”

Though her shoulder was heavily taped, Thomas seemingly played without limitation. She finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, including a floater with 2:05 left that gave the seventh-seeded Sun the lead for good, 69-68.

“I had never dislocated it like that,” Thomas said. “It was very painful putting it back. Next day it was super sore, but I’m used to it. I know what to expect.”

The Aces (19-6) had a chance to tie or cut the deficit to one in the final minute, but Jackie Young was whistled for a change. Thomas —who else? — converted baskets on the next two possessions as part of a game-ending 20-4 run.

Jones (15 points and 10 rebounds) and DeWanna Bonner (12 points and 10 rebounds) both chipped in double-doubles for the Sun. But afterward, all the talk was about the seventh-year vet, whom teammates call “The Engine.”

“I’m a tough person. I can handle a lot,” Thomas said. “I know what I’m capable of. I just want to be out there.”

MVP forward A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 20 points and 12 boards. Angel McCoughtry finished with 14 points.; @DougBonjour