Two MVP candidates hit the floor in Tuesday night’s WNBA game in Washington.
Tina Charles, who was once the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Connecticut Sun in 2010, came into the game as the league’s leading scorer averaging a career-high 25.4 points a game for the Washington Mystics.
At the other end of the floor was Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, who was dominating the league (21.6 points and league-leading 10.4 rebounds per game) before traveling to Europe for two weeks to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament.
Both played well but Jones had so much more help as the Connecticut Sun won their third straight win a 90-71 win over the undermanned Mystics Tuesday night in Washington. The Mystics dressed just six healthy players and were overwhelmed by the Sun.
Jones didn’t miss a step. She scored 23 points, pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds, had four assists and three steals. She frequently started Connecticut’s fast breaks, bringing the ball upcourt.
Jasmine Thomas had 21 points and set a new career-high with seven 3-point shots in a single game. Natasha Hiedemann had 15 points while Brionna Jones added 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
And Sun coach Curt Miller earned his 100th career win in the WNBA, getting the game ball and doused with water in the locker room by his players.
Charles scored 26 points for Washington (7-9) and set a new franchise record for most consecutive games with 25 points or more in a game.
“Obviously, we did a lot of good things. Defensively, we kept them under 40 percent (shooting from the floor). Tina (Charles) scored a lot of points but we made her take a lot of shots. And the rebounding was incredible. We took care of business.”
Jones scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the first half as the Sun led by as many as 16 points. “JJ is a really, really special player,” Miller said. “What truly special players do is making others better on the floor and JJ does make others better on the floor.”
With her 16 rebounds, Jones outrebounded the whole Washington team (13) which is only the second time a player has outrebounded an entire team in league history. Additionally, she has now scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games.
Thomas looked so poised shooting from the perimeter throughout the contest. “I knew the opportunities would be there,” she said. “I credit my teammates for finding me and having confidence in me.”
At one point, Miller tried to draw up some plays for Dewanna Bonner, who took just five shots in the game and scored two points. Bonner was named Conference Player of the Week for the ninth time in her career on Monday after averaging 24.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in victories over Dallas and Chicago last week.
But Bonner quickly pushed that aside in the huddle during a timeout. She was happy to feed Jones and her teammates the ball and pull down rebounds (8). Bonner finished with seven assists, tying a career-high.
“We’re fortunate that these guys don’t care about anything but winning,” Miller said. “(Bonner) said I am perfectly fine facilitating. I promise you that is not the case around the league with some of the superstars. If they aren’t getting their shots, it’s a different attitude than (Bonner) showed tonight. It’s so refreshing to coach someone like that.”
Miller became the seventh fastest coach in WNBA history to win 100 career games, securing that achievement in 172 contests. He joined the team in 2016.
“Milestone wins happen because you are surrounded by incredible coaches and players through the years,” he said. “We have established a culture in Connecticut. It doesn’t matter about our injuries or opt-outs. We stepped up in those moments and continued to win. I am very blessed to be surrounded by great coaches, great people and most importantly an incredible group of players through the years.”
The Sun (11-5) return to action with games with back-to-back games at Indiana on Thursday night and Saturday.