Rested Sun Ready To Face Mercury
By Tyler Berry
Thursday night, the Connecticut Sun face off in a single elimination game against the Phoenix Mercury, who dominated a first-round matchup against Dallas on Tuesday. Thanks to a bye, some extra rest, and no travel, the Sun will have a clear advantage from a fitness standpoint, but the WNBA’s fourth seed won’t have the luxury of taking the Mercury lightly. Remember, 40 minutes stand between Connecticut and the semifinals and the team will have to make every one of those minutes count.
Keys to Victory
The Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike showed up and showed out on Tuesday night in a victory over Minnesota, but let’s not forget that she has a sister who’s just as important to her team. Chiney Ogwumike led the Sun in scoring (14.4 points per game) and field goal percentage (60.3) this season. To beat the high-scoring Mercury, she’ll have to have a strong offensive game and lead the way for the WNBA’s regular season leader in points per game.
The Sun will need its No. 1 ranked offense to show up for all four quarters. The team averaged 87.6 points a night this season and it’ll likely need more than that average to beat a Phoenix team that, on Tuesday night, showed its ability to score at will courtesy of DeWanna Bonner and Diana Taurasi.
Speaking of that Mercury duo that combined for 10-of-19 from three, Connecticut will have to find a way to quell Phoenix’s perimeter shooting, while also finding its shots from behind the arc. If Phoenix gets going from deep, Connecticut will fade fast trading twos for threes. The Sun aren’t an amazing three-point shooting team, but the offense will have to find open looks for Jasmine Thomas and Jonquel Jones.
In the year’s three matchups, Phoenix won the season series 2-1. In the first game, a depleted Connecticut couldn’t touch Taurasi and Bonner, who combined for 34 points in an 89-72 victory. The Sun struggled without Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from the field.
Phoenix also won game two, albeit in a much more competitive outing from the Sun. Connecticut kept Bonner in check offensively – although she finished with a double-double – but Brittney Griner and Taurasi went off, combining for 48 points. No Connecticut player finished with more than 11 points in an 84-77 loss.
In the final matchup on July 13, the Sun finally got the better of Phoenix, winning a shootout 91-87. Courtney Williams had a career night, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Ogwumike had her best outing against the Mercury, posting 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting.
Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi scored 72 points in the three games against Connecticut (24 PPG)
Connecticut shot just 32.7 percent (20 for 61) from three against Phoenix this season
The second quarter could be key: The Sun were outscored 69-47 in second quarters against Mercury
Phoenix made 58 of 66 free throw attempts in three meetings with Sun. Sun made 30 of 37. A point differential of 28 at the line