Connecticut’s MVP candidate Alyssa Thomas has rarely left the floor this season. Earlier this month, she played in all 45 minutes of the Sun’s overtime loss to New York.
All-Star DeWanna Bonner has played heavy minutes for a 36-year-old forward in this league and leads the Sun in scoring with 17.9 points a game. Bonner has averaged 30.1 minutes per game with Thomas playing 37.1 minutes.
But on Friday night, Thomas and Bonner sat out the fourth quarter and the final three minutes of the third quarter as the New York Liberty beat the Sun for the fourth time this season with a dominating 89-58 victory at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Liberty (29-7) led by Betnijah Laney with 19 points, two steals and two blocks. Brianna Stewart had 14 points while Marine Johannes had 18 points, starting in place of the injured Sabrina Ionescu.
Tiffany Hayes had 11 points to lead the Sun, who had their lowest scoring game of the season. Olivia Nelson Ododa had 10 points off the bench for Connecticut. Bonner had nine points and Thomas had eight.
But Sun head coach Stephanie White had the playoffs in mind when she gave Bonner and Thomas an opportunity to rest. It was just the second time all season that the Sun played on back-to-back nights and the Liberty led from the outset building 20-point leads.
Connecticut (25-12), which beat Phoenix in Uncasville on Thursday night 89-74, is locked into the No. 3 seed for the upcoming WNBA playoffs. They’ll get two home games in the best-of-3 series against the No. 6 seed.
“As we look at these last three games, we (want to) continue to get healthy, get some recovery time for our heavy minute players (Thomas, Bonner, Hayes) and position ourselves for a playoff run,” Sun coach Stephanie White said.
“We have to make sure they are as fresh as they can be at this time of the year,” she said of Thomas, Bonner and Hayes. “They’ve logged a lot of minutes.”
On Tuesday, the Sun host Los Angeles at the Mohegan Sun Arena and host Indiana on Friday, Sept. 8. They close the regular season by hosting Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 10, in Uncasville at 1 p.m.
DiJonai Carrington missed her fourth straight game with an injury to her left foot. White said the timetable for her return is unknown at this time.
White said the Sun will be prudent this week but not at the expense of getting some positive momentum going into the playoffs.
New York was in control from the start. The Liberty had a 12-9 lead and then closed out the first quarter with a 15-7 to take an 11-point lead after one quarter. Thomas had five points and three rebounds in the first quarter.
New York shot 58.1 percent from the field in the first half while limiting Connecticut to 30.6 percent shooting as they opened up a 17-point lead at halftime. In the third quarter, the Liberty boosted the lead to 20 points and this one was over.
The Sun’s nine fourth-quarter points marks a new season-low for points scored in the closing quarter. Their 26 second-half points also marks a new season-low. The 31-point loss was the most lopsided defeat of the season for Connecticut.
New York 89, Connecticut 58
Connecticut (58) Allen 1-6 2-2 4, Bonner 3-7 2-2 9, Thomas 2-9 4-7 8, Hayes 4-10 1-1 11, Hiedeman 1-6 0-0 3, Nelson Ododa 5-8 0-0 10, Harris 1-8 1-2 4, Hatar 2-5 0-0 4, Brown 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 21-63 10-14
New York (89) Laney 7-2 2-3 19 Stewart 7-11 0-0 14, Jones 4-10 1-1 10, Johannes 5-9 5-6 18, Vandersloot 5-9 3-4 13, Thornton 2-2 0-0 4, Dolson 2-5 1-2 6, Willoughby 0-1 0-0 0, Sabally 1-1 1-2 3, Xu 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 34-62 13-16 89
Connecticut (25-12) 16 16 17 9 — 58
New York (29-7) 27 22 24 16 — 89
Three-point goals: Connecticut 6-20 (Allen 0-4, Bonner 1-2, Hayes 2-4, Hiedeman 1-3, Harris 1-5, Brown 1-2); New York 8-25 (Laney 3-4, Stewart 0-4, Jones 1-4, Johannes 3-6, Vandersloot 0-1, Dolson 1-4, Willobough 0-1, Xu 0-1)