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Another magical night for Thomas as Sun beat Sparks

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas had her sixth triple double of the season Tuesday night as the Sun beat Los Angeles.

Even Connecticut Sun coach Stephanie White has to step back and remind herself of what she has witnessed when Sun forward Alyssa Thomas hits the floor.

“You have to tell intentionally tell yourself not to take these moments for granted,” White said after another historic performance from the tenth year forward from Maryland on Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Sparks.

“They seem so routine. Alyssa Thomas gets a triple double or close to a triple double,” she said and paused.

“It’s not. It’s not routine. It’s exceptional. No one in this league is doing what she is doing,” White said.

Thomas had a season-high 27 points and her sixth triple double (10 or more points, rebounds, assists) of the season and her tenth of career as the Sun held off the pesky Sparks, 90-76 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. Thomas had 12 rebounds, 14 assists and a season-high six steals.

She is the only WNBA player with more than two triple-double performances in a single season. No other WNBA player has more than three triple-doubles in their career.

Thomas also set a new WNBA single-season record for most assists in a season. With two games left in the regular season, she has 304, breaking the previous of Courtney Vandersloot, who had 300 in 2019 for Chicago.

“No one is putting up the numbers she is doing and then doing what she does at the defensive end of the floor. It is just exceptional,” White said.

There was a point in the fourth quarter when Thomas stole the ball, drove the length of the court and into the lane. She fired the ball back out to Tiffany Hayes, who promptly drained a three-point shot to as part of a quick 7-0 run for the Sun.

The Sparks, who are fighting Chicago for the eighth and final spot in the upcoming WNBA playoffs, had cut the Sun lead to six.

Los Angeles (16-22) called timeout after Hayes dropped her shot through the net and chants of MVP rained down from the crowd. Thomas is one of three contenders for the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player award with New York’s Brianna Stewart and Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson.

“When she plays like that and gets everyone involved, it is just contagious,” said Bonner, who finished with 25 points and seven rebounds. Hayes scored 13 for the Sun (26-12). Thomas hit 11-of-14 shots from the field.

“She is the MVP of this league,” Bonner said. “I love my teammates and I think they are the best in the world. But if you look at these other teams (New York and Las Vegas), they have (multiple) All-Stars and (national team) players. We have one All-Star (Bonner) and one national team player and that’s her.

Thomas looked a little bit embarrassed when Bonner moved the microphone squarely in front of her to speak about her fiancée.

“It is impressive,” Bonner said. “She leads us night in and night out. These stat lines are insane. We haven’t seen these in WNBA history.”

It’s no secret how valuable she is to Connecticut. Thomas played virtually the entire second half, which is no surprise, because the Sparks kept hanging around. But each time, they looked on the verge of making it a ballgame, the Sun would hit a shot, pull down a key rebound and keep the undermanned Sparks at bay.

Eight-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks leading scorer (19.1) and rebounder (8.9) missed her second straight game with a sore knee. Karlie Samuelson also didn’t play either due to abdominal injury.

Former UConn star Azura Stevens and Dearica Hamby each had 18 points to lead the Sparks with Rae Burrell and Layshia Clarendon each adding 13 points each. Stevens had a double-double with 11 rebounds.

Both teams had just eight players available. D’Jonai Carrington didn’t play for a third game while she rests and ailing foot while Bernadett Hatar didn’t dress with a sore knee.

Los Angeles raced out to an early 9-2 lead before Connecticut scored the next 10 points to take the lead for good with Thomas scoring four points, pulling three rebounds and dishing out an assist. Thomas finished the quarter with eight points, five rebounds and five assists.

The Sun led by 13 points at halftime, 49-36, with Bonner scoring 15 points in the first half and Thomas tying the franchise record with 10 assists in the first half.

Connecticut has now won nine straight regular season games over the Sparks.

Thomas led the Sun in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals – just the fifth time in WNBA history that one player has led their team in those four categories. Thomas owns two of those five performances, also achieving this feat on August 1 against Minnesota.

The Sun host Indiana on Friday night at 7 p.m. and close out the regular season on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Chicago. Connecticut is locked into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and will open up their best-of-three quarterfinal game against the No. 6 seed on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Connecticut 90, Los Angeles 76
At Uncasville, Conn.
Los Angeles (76)
Burrell -59 0-0 13, Hamby 6-14 6-6 18, Stevens 6-18 2-2 18, Clarendon -7 4-4 13, Canada 2-5 6-7 10, Cooke 0-2 0-2 0, Westbrook 1-2 0-0 2, Thomas 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-60 18-21 76
Connecticut (90) Allen 2-7 0-0 5, Bonner 10-18 2-2 25, Thomas 11-14 5-7 27, Hayes 4-7 4-4 13, Hiedeman 1-6 0-0 3, Nelson-Ododa 2-5 3-3 7, Harris 4-10 0-0 10, Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 34-67 14-16 90
Los Angeles (16-22)        20  16  26  14  — 76
Connecticut (26-12)        26  23  21  20  — 90
Three-point goals: Connecticut 8-21 (Allen 1-1, Bonner 3-8, Hayes 1-2, Hiedeman 1-4, Harris 2-6); Los Angeles (8-19) Burrell 3-6, Hamby 0-2, Stevens 4-6, Clarendon1-2,Cooke 0-1, Westbrook 0-1, Thomas 0-1); Att: 4,783

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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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