It was after midnight but Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner still had some energy as she chatted with the media after the Sun dropped their third straight game on Thursday night at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
For the third straight game, winless Connecticut gave up a second half lead in an 81-76 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. On Tuesday night, the Sun let a six-point third quarter evaporate in a loss to the defending WNBA champion Washington Mystics. And on Sunday, Connecticut coughed up an 9-point lead with 1:09 left in the third quarter in a loss to Minnesota.
Bonner, a three-time WNBA All-Star and two-time league champion, arrived in Connecticut this spring with impressive credentials. She hasn’t disappointed in her short time here with the Sun.
Again, Bonner was outstanding in the loss to the Sparks. She scored a season-high 34 points on 12-19 shooting and pulled down 14 rebounds. In her first three games with the Sun, she has scored 82 points, which is a league record for most points in her first three games with a new team.
It was one point shy of the franchise record for most points in a game. Shannon Johnson had 35 points in 2002 against Cleveland when the team was the Orlando Miracle.
And again, Bonner received little help, at least offensively. Alyssa Thomas, who averaged 24 points in her first two games, struggled from the floor sinking just 2-of-12 shots. Thomas, who finished with 10 points, did pull down a career-high 18 rebounds and had eight assists.
Jasmine Thomas had a season-high 11 points against Los Angeles but outside of Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, the Sun have struggled to score all season.
After going to the WNBA finals a year ago and losing to the Washington Mystics in game five, the Sun are 0-3 – their worst start since going 0-4 in 2017, the first year that head coach and general manager Curt Miller was running the team.
“Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner are obviously carrying us,” Miller said early Friday morning. “We’re really struggling to shoot the ball in other positions (on the floor). We’re leaving so many points off the board. We played so hard tonight but we couldn’t find a tempo that works for us.”
It cost the Sun three first round draft picks to bring Bonner to Connecticut. Miller hoped she would be the final piece to bring the franchise their first WNBA championship. But then the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the season and second team All-WNBA forward Jonquel Jones opted not to play in the 22-game shortened season in Florida.
The Sun also picked up veteran guard Briann January from Phoenix but she tested positive for COVID-19 and has yet to clear the quarantine protocols to join the team.
Bonner isn’t discouraged.
“It’s not about wins and losses right now. I just want to get better,” she said. “I’m proud of my team. The wins will come this year. Next year. Whenever. I promise you that. So, Connecticut stay with us. Just sit back and watch, we’ll be all right. It will be better.”
Bonner was outstanding throughout the game. She drove to the basket for one score early in the game and followed that up with a deep three-point shot less than 20 seconds later to give the Sun an early 16-10 lead in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, she had a pretty assist on a basket to Jasmine Thomas and took a nice feed from Alyssa Thomas and scored inside the lane. About 30 seconds later, she swished a basket after a pretty assist from Jasmine Thomas to close out a 10-3 run to start the third quarter.
Another three-point shot from Bonner with 5:21 left in the quarter gave Connecticut a six-point lead, 52-46.
But Los Angeles’ veteran Seimone Augustus, who is playing her first year with the Sparks after a long career with Minnesota, took over the third quarter, hitting 4-of-5 shots from the floor and scoring nine points to help the Sparks close out the quarter with a 17-5 surge to take command of the contest.
“That was a character win for our team,” Los Angeles coach Derek Fisher said. “Seimone showed her character and mental toughness. This is sports. At some point, you have to compete and leave it all out there. Simone went out there and just started competing and playing with some swagger.”
Los Angeles (2-1) maintained control throughout the fourth quarter. Bonner’s turnaround jumper from Alyssa Thomas with 1:36 cut the Sparks lead to six points, 77-71 but Los Angeles’ Nneeka Ogwumike battled under the glass and pulled two of her own rebounds. On her third opportunity, she scored with 1:12 to extend the lead to eight.
Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 15 points while Ogwumike had 14 points. Augustus scored 13 points while Candance Parker had 10 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Playing in this pandemic-shortened season isn’t easy. Connecticut will play their fourth game in seven days on Saturday when they play the Minnesota Lynx at 4 p.m. on NESN. And then, the Sun will have two days off (for the first time this season) before their next game against Seattle on Tuesday night.
NOTES: Bonner scored 19 in her first game with Connecticut on Sunday against Minnesota and followed that up with 29 points on Tuesday against Washington. … Bonner was a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line against the Sparks. Bonner passed former Houston Comets’ great Sheryl Swoopes for 23rd on the WNBA’s career points list. … Bonner had first game of more than 30 points with 10 rebounds and five assists. … Alyssa Thomas had eight assists to lead the Sun.