For stretches of Sunday’s game against the top-seeded Aces, Sun head coach Curt Miller was able to take a backseat to calling plays. He turned that responsibility over to his players for a change.
And with good reason.
Pretty much everything had gone right, especially for Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas. The veteran guard had one of those days, scoring a career-high 31 points in an 87-62 rout of Las Vegas in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals in Bradenton, Fla.
“I called less plays tonight that I have for weeks,” Miller said. “Just stay out of their way and let them feel the game. It’s fun to watch a player like Jas tonight. She just got into her rhythm.”
Thomas wasted little time heating up despite dealing with plantar fasciitis. She nearly outscored the Aces by herself in the first half, dropping 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting as Connecticut opened up a 36-25 lead. She finished 13-of-18 from the field.
“I knew the pull-up would be there,” Thomas said. “I just took the first few without a conscience and with confidence.”
Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press
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The Aces — who hadn’t lost a game in over two weeks — never recovered, as Connecticut (13-12) secured the upset in the opening act of the best-of-5 series. Las Vegas will look to even things up Tuesday in Game 2 (9 p.m.).
“She was on fire today,” Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman said, adding, “She was just going crazy the whole game.”
Alyssa Thomas had a strong game as well for Connecticut, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Hiedeman added 14 points off the bench.
A’ja Wilson, the third-year forward who won her first MVP this week, paced Las Vegas (18-5) with 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting. But outside of fellow former No. 1 pick Jackie Young, who contributed 17 points in reserve, nobody else was a factor for the Aces.
The Aces hit just 33 percent from the field, including 1-of-14 from 3-point range, and committed 14 turnovers. Their 62 points were a season-low.
“Just a credit to our players’ tenacity and to their toughness,” Miller said. “Vegas can really bully you and can really play excellent basketball. That was about 14 or 15 less field goals than they had made in a game against us in the bubble.
“Everything tonight was energy, effort and tenacity.”
The Sun only turned up the heat on Las Vegas in the second half. A 19-6 run to begin the third quarter extended their lead to 55-31. The Aces trailed by as many as 30 in the fourth.
Start of other semifinal series on hold
Game 1 of the other semifinal between the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx was postponed out of an abundance of caution after multiple coronavirus tests for the Storm came back inconclusive. Tip-off had been scheduled for 3 p.m.
Players with inconclusive results underwent additional testing and are currently in isolation. The league has yet to determine when the series can begin.
“Especially if there’s multiple players on a team, we really can’t take a chance to expose the bubble to any kind of community spread,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “We need to get more data, get more testing to see whether we had an issue or not.”
Miller said Engelbert and WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson stopped by Connecticut’s locker room after the game to shed more light on the situation.
No games were postponed during the regular season due to positive COVID-19 tests. There have been a few instances of players receiving inconclusive results, causing them to miss games. However, in each case subsequent tests were negative.
“There’s anxiety for our team,” Miller said. “Everyone’s so close in this league. We’ve done such a great job at keeping COVID out of this bubble. Just hope these are false positives.”
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