Connecticut Sun defeat Atlanta Dream behind seven threes from Shekinna Stricklen
UNCASVILLE, CT — The Connecticut Sun are a different team when they’re making threes. While it is no secret that making threes is important to a team’s success as it opens up the floor and puts more points on the board, the Sun have an extra bounce in their step when they are knocking down threes, evidenced by the season-high 12 they made in Friday night’s 86-76 win over the Atlanta Dream to improve to 9-1 on the season.
Part of this may be the crowd’s reaction to every single three that Connecticut makes. The fans get on their feet and cheer, often at a volume that may cause your ears to ring, whether it’s the first quarter or the final minutes of a game.
When head coach Curt Miller walked in and opened the press conference he focused on two things, the win and the importance of it being at home.
“Another home win for us,” he said. “We’re really creating something special here, our fan base is just tremendous. Atlanta had a 51 point second half and, and really made us work for that. But we took care of business at home.”
The Sun play their next three on the road before hosting the Minnesota Lynx on July 6.
Connecticut used the second quarter to separate themselves
While the Sun typically use the third quarter to create separation, they used the second quarter to do so against Atlanta.
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Connecticut was able to extend their lead from four to 14 in just ten minutes of play by being able to score no matter the pace. In the first five minutes of the quarter the Sun outscored the Dream 6-1, in the second five minutes they outscored them 16-11.
Being able to take control of the game no matter the quarter, pace or percentage of shots going in will prove critical as the season goes on and the Sun continue to face teams with different playing styles.
Of Connecticut’s 12 threes Friday night, Stricklen made seven of those, marking the fourth game in a row she’s made at least four threes in a game and she was an incredible 7-for-11 from behind the arc.
“I’m in a good rhythm right now,” Stricklen said. “My teammates are really looking for me and they really believe in me, got a lot of confidence in me and they feel like every shot I shoot is going in and that feeling, it just makes you feel good and makes you just want to shoot and make them all,” she said with a smile. so it’s like “I give a lot of credit to my teammates honestly like I said they do all the hard work, they penetrate, they kick out … they do pretty much the hard work, I do the easy work, shooting.”
Her teammates, especially, Rachel Banham, have taken notice of Stricklen’s hot shooting.
“Well, we call her Klay, Klay Thompson,” said Banham, who started using the nickname last season. “And that’s obvious now can you tell? Yeah, so she has not missed so I just hope she just keeps staying hot. I mean, she’s so confident right now she’s not going to miss so we’re really proud of her.”
Jonquel Jones and Banham both made two threes and Jasmine Thomas added one as well. Jones hit her 100th and 101st three early in the third quarter.
While Connecticut can still win without making threes, they will have an easier time doing so when they get hot behind the arc, especially at home. It’s hard for the fans and players alike to not get excited when Stricklen, and other players, knock down threes.
Jasmine Thomas was in “attack mode”
Miller said after the game they wanted the ball in Thomas’ hand tonight that is certainly where the ball was.
Thomas scored 13 points against Friday night, going 5-8 from the floor, her first game in double figures since June 6. She also added a season-high nine assists and tied a season-high with five rebounds.
“I feel like I’ve been in my head a little bit been playing a little passive and tentative,” Thomas said. “And that’s nobody’s fault. That’s that’s nothing but me.”
She also acknowledged she may have fallen into the role of trying to help everyone else first saying, “It’s a good problem to have when you got a team like ours, right? Anybody can light it up, we can move the ball and share the ball. And sometimes you can get stuck in that as a point guard trying to always just get everybody else going. So when I’m aggressive, it helps everybody else get going and it’s not just about scoring it’s about putting pressure on defense and getting in the paint and, you know, being confident.”
Both Miller and her teammates acknowledged her the importance of Thomas’ performance.
“We saw Jas in attack mode tonight that we haven’t seen all season, her ability to play north-south tonight, and play with a change of pace and tempo, really created a lot of opportunities for not only herself but for teammates with her nine assists,” Miller said.
When asked about Thomas’ performance Stricklen was proud saying, “Man that was big, and I was so happy for her. And I know she’s kind of been struggling but she’s getting back and we love that she’s our leader and I feel like she was so aggressive today and that’s good…”
Getting Thomas going both in a scoring and facilitating role will prove helpful for the Sun as the season goes on and injuries and fatigue begin to add up. While the number of scoring threats on the roster is something that helps the team, Connecticut will be a better team when they are able to rally around their leader.
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