Connecticut loses Alyssa Thomas, then Game 2 of WNBA semifinals against Las Vegas
The Sun were hit with a double whammy on Tuesday.
Alyssa Thomas, the two-time All-Star forward, left Game 2 of Connecticut’s WNBA semifinals series with Las Vegas favoring her right shoulder after getting tangled up in the paint with A’ja Wilson just five minutes in.
The Sun went the rest of the night without Thomas, who has been playing with a torn labrum in each shoulder. Not surprisingly, the Aces took advantage of her absence, rallying in the second half for an 83-75 victory to even the series in Florida.
“We had them on the ropes, we just couldn’t finish,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “Give them credit, I don’t think anyone outside of our locker room believed we could beat them when AT went down.”
Wilson, the league’s MVP, converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give top-seeded Las Vegas a 78-75 lead with 1:03 left. After DeWanna Bonner threw the ball away on Connecticut’s next possession, Wilson put the finishing touches on her big night with another bucket and foul.
The best-of-five series is now tied at one game apiece. Game 3 will be Thursday at 9:30 p.m.
Connecticut (13-13) may have to play that one, and possibly more, without their defensive stopper and emotional leader. Thomas was ruled out with a shoulder injury soon after she left the floor, and returned to the bench in the fourth quarter wearing a sling. Miller said afterward that Thomas may have dislocated her shoulder, but could not confirm it.
With Thomas out and rookie Beatrice Mompremier replacing her, it became that much tougher to contain Wilson, who scored 29 points to go with seven blocks and seven rebounds.
“She was very aggressive,” Miller said of Wilson. “Obviously when you take the best defender in the world off the floor, it made it more difficult.”
The Sun were resilient. They led 39-38 at halftime and by as many as seven in the third, but faded down the stretch. Eighteen turnovers were a big culprit.
“I’m really proud of our tenacity, our fight,” Miller said. “We struggled to find our offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter. You’ve got to give them a little bit of credit, but we were right there.”
“We turned it over too much,” he added. “As good as they were offensively, we hurt ourselves with turnovers.”
In doing so, they wasted a 23-point effort by Bonner. Briann January scored 20 points, but Jasmine Thomas — the Game 1 hero with 31 points — was mostly held in check with 10 points.
Now, the Sun have to hope for the best for Alyssa Thomas.
“We definitely missed her fire, her energy,” Bonner said, adding, “Hopefully she’ll be out there next game. If not, I’m sure she’ll be on the bench cheering us on.”
Seattle-Minnesota series is a go
The Seattle-Minnesota semifinal series was scheduled to get underway Tuesday night, two days after Game 1 was postponed due to inconclusive COVID-19 tests from three Storm players.
During a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon, commissioner Cathy Engelbert said two of the players in question had been cleared to rejoin the team after extensive additional testing, and the third was still awaiting the results of a second test. The third player was later cleared as well.
Per WNBA safety protocols, a player must twice test negative 24 hours apart before returning to action.
“I think we made the right decision on Sunday and I think we’re making the right decision tonight,” Engelbert said. “But every day’s a new day in COVID World.”
There were a few instances during the regular season when players were forced to sit out after receiving inconclusive tests. However, in each case the games were played, and all subsequent tests came back negative.
The league took extra precautions this time because of the number of inconclusive tests.
“We were evaluating this very closely because we had not had multiple (inconclusive tests) on one day,” Engelbert said.
The league considered taking other steps to minimize the risk of an outbreak, including suspending Game 1 of the Sun-Aces series. But the league ultimately felt after contact tracing that the safety of the bubble had not been compromised.