Sun topple Liberty: Three takeaways from The Garden

Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas steals the ball. Photo by Abe Booker, III
Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas steals the ball. Photo by Abe Booker, III /

NEW YORK—The Connecticut Sun continued to assert to the WNBA that they are a legitimate force, necessary to consider as one of the league’s top teams, with a 94-89 win over the Liberty Friday night at The Garden.

Here are three takeaways from the proceedings in New York:

Jonquel Jones can do it all

Seriously, and think hard before answering this: how many players are you taking ahead of Jonquel Jones if starting a WNBA team right now? She put it all on display Friday night. There’s open floor Jonquel Jones, stepping into a passing lane and taking it the distance. There’s on the block Jonquel Jones, of course, and putback machine Jonquel Jones, but there’s also Jonquel Jones at the elbow, creating her own shot. And of course, midway through the third, there was stepback three Jonquel Jones. Any concern the Sun had about who would be their star in Chiney Ogwumike’s absence has long ago disappeared.

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Courtney Williams never stops

There are two reasons it is impossible for teams to stop Courtney Williams: she never stops moving, and she has more hang time on her jump shot than anyone in the league. It’s athleticism that manages to stand out even among the elite guards of the WNBA.  She entered Friday night’s game shooting 60 percent from the field and averaging 19 per game over her previous four contests.

The Liberty slowed her down for much of the game, but she still finished in double figures again, with a pair of late baskets that turned an 82-79 game into an 86-79 one, and another pull up jumper to put Connecticut ahead with under a minute left, grabbed the vital defensive rebound at the other end, then fed Jasmine Thomas for the game-clinching three. Nor is she alone: Alex Bentley returned at full speed, Jasmine Thomas continues to punish defenses with forays into the lane, and the Sun continue playing at the elevated pace that rated fourth in the league entering the night.

Does path to East crown run through Connecticut?

After losing to Connecticut by 20 on June 14, Liberty coach BIll Laimbeer had a Woody Allen-inspired solution.

It is hard to argue the Liberty didn’t do that, especially after they rallied from 68-48 down late in the third to tie the game at 86 with 1:01 left, while Tina Charles  scored 18 of her 20 points in the half.

But the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions have now lost to the Sun twice in nine days. This time, it happened on their home floor, with Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn back. And the Sun weren’t even at full strength, missing both Lynetta Kizer and Morgan Tuck, the latter a particularly tough matchup for the Liberty (and to be fair, most teams) on the defensive end.

Sure, the conference-less playoff structure limits the import of winning the East. But both the psychological benefits and more significant, the home court advantage should the two meet in the playoffs suggest that the Washington Mystics aren’t the only cause for alarm in New York.