Sun pull away from Washington to clinch top four berth in WNBA playoffs

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas had a career-high 26 points Tuesday night in a win over Washington on the road.

Pencil in the date. The WNBA playoffs are returning to the Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time since 2012 on Sunday, September 10.

The Connecticut Sun clinched one of the top four berths in the upcoming WNBA playoffs with an 86-76 victory over the Washington Mystics Tuesday night in Washington. The Sun will host a single elimination contest with the winner advancing to the best-of-5 WNBA semifinals.

Connecticut (21-11) received a career-high 22 rebounds from second-year center Jonquel Jones and a career-high 26 points from Alyssa Thomas to pull away from the Mystics (17-15). Jasmine Thomas scored 20 points for the Sun while Jones added 14. Shekinna Stricken had 12 points after sinking four 3-point shots.

The Sun were 10-of-20 from the floor from three-point range.

Jones is just the second player in WNBA history to pull down at least 20 rebounds in three different games in one season. The only player was Tina Charles when she pulled down a league record 384 rebounds in 2010 as a rookie with the Sun.

Jones’ rebounding helped Connecticut pull away at the start of the fourth quarter. The Mystics cut the lead to seven points, 64-57, on an Ivory Latta three-point shot. But Connecticut went on a 9-0 run that concluded when Jones grabbed a rebound and put it back in to give the Sun a 16-point lead, 73-57 with 6:59 remaining.

In the run, Jones had three rebounds and a beautiful assist to Alyssa Thomas driving to the basket for a score. Stricken also drained a three-point shot in the run.

Washington tried to rally late, using an 11-2 run to cut the lead to four points, 82-76, with 1:15 remaining. Elena Delle Donne had seven of her team-high 24 points in the run, including a three-point play on a drive to the basket with 1:15 to go.

But that would be the final basket of the evening for the Mystics as Jasmine Thomas scored the final six points of the contest for Connecticut.

Delle Donne had 16 rebounds for Washington while Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 14 points off the bench for the Mystics.

Connecticut led by two at halftime and had a two-point lead with 5:09 left in the third quarter. But an 8-2 run put the Sun in front to stay. Jones scored in the paint, Alex Bentley drained a three-point shot and Jasmine Thomas hit a jumper to push the lead to nine points.

Washington cut it to four but Alyssa Thomas was hard to stop.

In one sequence, Thomas pulled down two rebounds of her own shots in the lane, battling with two Washington defenders. On the third attempt, she finally put the ball into the net for a 58-52 lead. Less than 30 seconds later, Stricken drained a three-point from the corner off an assist from Alyssa Thomas to extend the lead to 10 points.

The Sun conclude the regular season with a pair of tough road games. They play at Phoenix (16-16) on Friday night at 10 p.m. and close out the regular season on Sunday, Sept. 3 with a game at Los Angeles (24-8) against the defending WNBA champion Sparks at 4 p.m.

NOTES: With two games remaining in the regular season, Jones is 14 rebounds shy of tying the single season record for rebounds of 398 set by Charles in 2010. … Connecticut will either be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the playoffs. New York (20-12) is currently the No. 4 seed and the two teams split their four games this season. … The Sun have won nine of their last 11 games. … The Sun’s game against Phoenix will be broadcast nationally on Twitter. The Los Angeles game will be broadcast locally on WCCT Channel 20. … Minnesota and Los Angeles will be the top two teams in the WNBA playoffs and receive byes into the semifinals. The first and second round games are single-elimination contests. The top eight teams in the WNBA, regardless of conference, earn playoff berths.

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