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Sun will fight on without Alyssa Thomas

Briann January has told people this summer about the similarities between her current team, the Connecticut Sun, and one of her former teams, the 2012 Indiana Fever team.

That’s real high praise from January.

January started for that Indiana team which lost one of its best players during that postseason yet went on to beat two teams favored to beat it en route to the biggest upset in WNBA Finals history.

Connecticut is going to be put to the same test because a right shoulder injury will prevent starting forward Alyssa Thomas from playing in Game 3 of their best-of-five WNBA semifinal series on Thursday night against the Las Vegas Aces.

The game is at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (9:30 p.m., ESPN2).

Thomas injured her shoulder less than five minutes into Tuesday’s 83-75 loss to the top-seeded Aces. Shoulder injuries have knocked her out of games before over the last five seasons and she’s played with two torn labrums for years.

Sun head coach Curt Miller said Wednesday that Thomas was in pain and taken for an MRI. The results were not available.

Thomas has been among the league’s best and most relentless players over the past few years. She was Connecticut’s second-leading scorer during this regular season and playoffs. She was the only player in the league to finish in the top 10 in rebounding (second, 9 rpg), assists (sixth, 4.8) and steals (first, 2 spg) during the regular season.

“Alyssa is the centerpiece of what we do,” Miller said after Tuesday’s loss.

The seventh-seeded Sun also lost reserve guard Bria Holmes late in the regular season to a right knee sprain.

Connecticut still has an unwavering belief in itself.

“We have so much togetherness, such a unity, and it makes me so excited,” January said after Tuesday’s loss. “We never get too high. We never get too low. We’re going to show up (at Wednesday’s practice), look at what we need to adjust, and show up ready to fight the next time we step on the court.”

The Fever’s 2012 world championship team began showing a national audience just how tough they were during that year's playoffs. Oddly enough, they played Connecticut in the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals.

The Sun had the league’s second-best record, the WNBA MVP (Tina Charles), and had beaten the Fever in three of their four regular-season meetings.

Indiana lost the first game at Connecticut. It staved off elimination when Shavonte Zellous made a game-winning 13-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds left to win Game 2 at home.

Game 3 was back at Mohegan Sun Arena, and the Fever lost starting guard Katie Douglas to a season-ending ankle injury five minutes into the game.

Douglas was the team’s second leading scorer during the regular season and led her team with 51 points in the first two games of the series.

Indiana was unfazed. It blitzed the Sun and led by as much as 24 points before winning, 87-71, to go on to the WNBA Finals.

Indiana went onto to play the league-leading, star-studded and defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.

The Fever shocked the Lynx and won in four games.

“On paper, it wasn’t a question who was supposed to win,” January said. “It’s all about heart and discipline. Those types of things, putting yourselves into position to win games doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not luck. It’s focus. It’s intensity. It’s toughness. It’s having each other’s back. It’s just being ready when your name is called.

“KT (Douglas) went down and we had people come off the bench who were ready when they came in. ... and everybody trusted them. I think that trust in everybody on your team is important; just empowering everybody to step up and play big roles because you never know when you’re going to need somebody.”

That was the case during Tuesday’s game as rookie Beatrice Mompremier played the majority of Thomas’ minutes. She finished with seven rebounds and three blocks in over 21 minutes.

“Beatrice came in (and) she played huge,” January said. “For a rookie coming in playing up against the (2020 WNBA) MVP (A’ja Wilson), I think she did phenomenal. She rebounded the hell out of the ball, contested shots and got her hands on a lot of balls. I’m just so proud of her. T (reserve guard Natisha Hiedeman) came in (Sunday) and hit some shots.

“Everybody is ready. ... So that gives me confidence going (forward).”

n.griffen@theday.com

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