Sun thrash Aces, 87-62
It's important to note that Jasmine Thomas is playing hurt for the Connecticut Sun.
Every WNBA player has something hurting this late into season, but in Thomas' case, she's playing with plantar fasciitis in her right foot and rolled her left ankle late in the season, forcing her to miss a few games.
So there was Thomas on Sunday afternoon, nailing a 3-pointer in transition for her third straight basket in less than a minute late in the second quarter against the Las Vegas Aces, causing Natisha Hiedeman to tumble atop of Theresa Plaisance on the floor on the Sun bench.
Thomas played the most outstanding offensive half in Sun history while she and her teammates choked out another team's offense. Thomas scored a franchise record 22 in the first half and finished with a career-high 31 points as seventh-seeded Connecticut gave the top-seeded Aces their worst beating of the season, 87-62, in Game 1 of a best-of-five semifinal series at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at 7 at the same site (ESPN2).
Thomas' 22 first-half points bested the 21 scored by former Sun great Nykesha Sales in a half against the Seattle Storm during Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Oct. 10, 2004.
"We talked about it in the scout, what opportunities would be open for me," Thomas said. "They've been (defending the paint) and kind of playing me soft (on the outside), so I knew the pullup would be there.
"I took a few of them without a conscience with a lot of confidence because I knew my teammates were expecting me to."
Thomas missed three games late in the season for the Sun (12-12) due to her injuries. One of those games was a 93-78 loss to the Las Vegas (Sept. 3). She scored two in the other game against the Aces, which the latter won 99-78 (Aug. 20).
"She was just going crazy all game," Hiedeman said. "I think at one point she had more points than the whole Las Vegas team."
The three that sent Connecticut's bench into hysterics gave Thomas 22 first-half points.
It also gave the Sun a 36-23 lead with 1 minutes, 28 seconds left in the half.
"We know what she's capable of and she did it tonight," Kayla McBride of the Aces said about Thomas. "She's obviously been in-and-out (with) injuries. She looked good today."
Connecticut's defense was the game's other big story. It held the Aces (18-5) to 33.8-percent shooting and a season-low in points.
"Just a credit to our player's tenacity, to their toughness," Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "Vegas can really bully you and really play excellent basketball."
The Aces averaged a league-best 88.7 points during the regular season.
"I think this is a great loss for us," Aces post A'ja Wilson said. "I think we needed to get beat. They outworked us. They worked 10 times harder than we did and we needed that. We needed that slap in the face."
Wilson, who was named league MVP last week, had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Aces. Reserve Jackie Young scored 17 off the bench.
The Sun dealt with some adversity in the first half as starting center Brionna Jones played less than six minutes due to three fouls.
Rookie Beatrice Mompremier provided solid points in her absence and finished with six rebounds and three blocks in over 22 minutes. She was drafted 20th overall (second round) in April by the Los Angeles Sparks, waived in May, and signed with the Sun in late June.
"She huge for us," Alyssa Thomas said. "Her length and her rebounding, it brings a whole different aspect to our team. She might not be a scorer, but she's always in the right place. She's always getting her hands on the ball. She's not playing like a rookie out there. I'm super-proud of her."
Jasmine Thomas' 19-foot jumper gave Connecticut its first double-digit lead, 33-23, with 1:48 left in the first half. It led by double figures the rest of the game.
Briann January's 3-pointer gave the Sun their largest lead, 73-43, with 8:35 left in the game.
• Sunday's second semifinal between the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm was postponed after the latter had inconclusive COVID-19 test results from earlier in the day. The makeup date for Game 1 has yet to be announced.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke to Connecticut after its game about the inconclusive tests. The league has played all season in a "bubble" at IMG Academy.
"We're hoping for all (false test) results and that everybody is safe and healthy," said Jasmine Thomas, who is the Sun's player union rep. "We've been doing a good job down here being conscious of taking care of ourselves and each other; wearing our masks, doing everything that we need to do to sanitize and testing daily.
"We feel good moving forward that everything will be okay."
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