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Without an injured Alyssa Thomas, Sun can’t keep up with high-scoring Aces – The Collinsville Press
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Without an injured Alyssa Thomas, Sun can’t keep up with high-scoring Aces

Las Vegas’ Angel McCoughtry  gets past Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner and Essence Carlson as she goes up for the shot in Thursday night’s WNBA win over the Sun. Brionna Jones (42) boxes out in anticipation of a rebound. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Fans of the Connecticut Sun was become a bit numb and spoiled by the performance of forward Alyssa Thomas in her WNBA career.

She has been playing with torn labrum in her shoulders for years and has been  putting off surgery because it would require her to sit out and miss time on the court whether it is in the WNBA or in Europe.

When you ask her about playing with injuries, she will smile a little, shrug her shoulders and say that she is there to play. It’s no big deal, she might say.

Let us appreciate what this veteran from Maryland has been doing out there on the floor wearing the orange and blue of the Sun grow.

Thomas sat out Thursday night’s game against the Las Vegas Aces, her first DNP in the WNBA since missing 10 games with a shoulder injury during the 2018 season.

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas goes to the basket strong in Monday’s win over New York. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

In her last five games, Thomas averaged 18.0 points a game. She had 25 points against New York a little less than two weeks ago, hitting 10-of-14 shots from the field. She had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a win over Washington on Saturday. Two days earlier, she had 19 points against the Los Angeles Sparks.

On Monday, she was named the Eastern Conference player of the week.

Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller informed the media in pre-game interviews that Thomas would not be playing against Las Vegas. She has been suffering with a hand injury for quite some time. When did it happen? He doesn’t know. He said Thomas probably doesn’t know since she gets banged around so much on the floor.

When she isn’t on the floor, Thomas’ hand is in a splint and it hasn’t been getting better, he said. Gee, with teams playing every other day, I can’t imagine why it isn’t healing.

“Every time she catches the ball, there is shooting pain in her hand,” Miller said before Thursday night’s 93-78 loss to Las Vegas at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. “She is dealing with constant pain. So, we need to sit her out a little bit to see if we can get this a little bit better.

“She’ll be back,” he said confidently.

Anyone who has watched Thomas play for the Sun over the years would agree. The 6-foot-2 forward plays a physical style of basketball. She is a tenacious defender — the best on the Sun this season.

“She is such a warrior and gets beat on all of the time,” Miller said. “This has been bothering her for multiple weeks. We will keep grinding with her. Right now, it is a good night to take a seat and try to have her ready for Saturday.”

Thomas and teammate Jasmine Thomas, the veteran point guard suffering with plantar fasciitis, both missed the game. And this was a game to skip, if one looks at the big picture.

Las Vegas (13-4) came into the game tied for the lead in scoring with an average of 87.8 points a game with the Aces already having clinched one of the eight spots in the upcoming WNBA playoffs.

Meanwhile, Connecticut (8-10) is striving to secure their spot in the tournament and get as healthy as they can for the playoffs. With all 12 teams playing, living and training at the IMG Academy and playing in front of no fans, there is no real home court advantage for the top seeds.

It will just come down to health, heart and the will to win. “As long as we get one of those eight spots, nothing else matters,” Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner said.

Connecticut is currently the No. 7 seed and have four games left beginning with a game on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Indiana (5-12), that will be available on the WNBA’s Facebook page, two consecutive games with Phoenix (10-7) on Sept. 7 and 9 and a season-ending game with Atlanta (5-13) on Sept. 11.

Two wins will probably clinch a spot for the Sun, who match up better against their upcoming opponents than they did against Las Vegas.

Connecticut didn’t go through the motions, though. They trailed by two points with 2:45 left in the second quarter before the Aces closed out the quarter with a 9-4 run to take a seven-point lead at halftime.

Las Vegas built a lead of 16 points late in the third quarter only to see Connecticut score the final six points of the quarter to cut the lead to 10. But that is as close as the Sun would get.

Miller tried to give his starters a few minutes of rest to start the final 10 minutes but the Aces pulled away.

Bonner led the way for Connecticut with 22 points – her third straight game with more than 20 points She hit 11 of 12 free throws. Brionna Jones, who is battling a sore ankle had 14 points and six rebounds while rookie Kalia Charles had nine points. The Sun’s other rookie Beatrice Mompremier came off the bench and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds in just 12 minutes of action.

That is the most rebounds in a game for a Sun player coming off the bench in team history and the third best performance in WNBA history.

The play of the two rookies was a bright spot for the Sun. “We did some good things in the paint,” Miller said. “There were some bright spots in there. We did a good job on the boards (rebounding).”

Added Bonner, “That’s not easy to do, come in there as a rookie and have responsibilities night in and night out. We ask a lot of them. It’s kinda cool they are getting the opportunity and the time (on the floor). They’ve been playing well.”

The Aces were led by A’ja Wilson, who had 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the floor. Jackie Young came off the bench and had 20 points, nine assists and three steals. Dearica Hamby had 20 points while Kayla McBride had 14 points.

NOTES: Connecticut’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis saw action after being out with a back injury the last three contests, she added seven points and shot 2-of-3 from behind the arc. … Jasmine Thomas missed the game, only the fourth in her 10-year WNBA career. .. It was the first time that Jasmine Thomas and Alyssa Thomas both missed the same game due to injury. …Three of Connecticut’s final three games will only be available on social media. The game on Monday night against Phoenix will be broadcast on NESN and CBS Sports Network. Saturday’s game against Indiana and contests against Phoenix (Sept. 9) and Atlanta (Sept. 11) will be available at the WNBA’s Facebook page. … Thursday night’s game was broadcast at the WNBA’s Twitter feed.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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