A soap opera in basketball form
WASHINGTON — Tuesday night, a number of players on both the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics played Game 2 in direct response to how they’d performed in Game 1.
For the Sun, an active Jonquel Jones countered her eight-shot performance in Game 1. And after finding a way to get anything she wanted in Game 1, Elena Delle Donne suffered what nobody wanted to see her experience: back spasms that knocked her out of the game early in the first quarter.
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When it was over, the Sun had drawn even in this series, 99-87, but really, taken control of it.
So how did it happen?
Jonquel Jones showed up
First possession, the Sun fed Jones in the paint. A possession later, Jones had a look at an open 3. The shots didn’t fall at first — she missed her first four — but she kept on pushing, getting open threes, setting up inside and calling for the ball.
“I just got on the offensive glass a lot, and that allowed me to really get everything else going,” Jones said postgame. “Obviously my teammates were
looking for me, and we talked about getting me the ball more in Game 2, and I just wanted to deliver.”
Her first made shot, a three, extended the Sun lead to 18-11 and led Thibault to yell and call a timeout with 3:21 left in the first quarter.
And that, coupled with the loss of Delle Donne, allowed Jones to be a force at both ends. Energized by not having to chase Delle Donne around the court, Jones found her legs on shot after shot, both on the interior and from deep. After grabbing six rebounds total, and none offensive, in Game 1, she had 10 and four, respectively, by halftime, 18 and 10, a double-double by the break.
It didn’t stop after halftime. Just how undeniable she was on Tuesday night: jones grabbed an offensive rebound, got blocked from behind by LaToya Sanders, and went back up a second time and finished.
Elena Delle Donne goes down
At first, it was curiosity: where did Delle Donne go? Immediately, it was a concern, the star out at the 6:32 mark of the first quarter, not on the bench. Eventually, word came down: back spasms, questionable to return.
“She’s going to get an MRI tomorrow on her back,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “It didn’t look good, so we’ll see. We’ll see what the MRI says and treatment tomorrow. The only good thing, I didn’t look forward to having four days between games, but right now that looks like a benefit that we didn’t have at the start of the series.”
The Mystics have plenty of elite players. A lack of Delle Donne doesn’t doom the Mystics, not with ample talent like Emma Meesseman, Natasha Cloud, Kristi Toliver and so many others. But it was a double blow: no Delle Donne, and all the preparation for playing with her now rendered useless.
A fast start
After Game 1, Curt Miller talked a lot about that 30-17 hole the Mystics put the Sun in. The game ended at 95-86, meaning that after the first quarter, the Sun were actually plus-4 against Washington. Tuesday night, the Sun put the Mystics in an almost identical one, 29-17 after one quarter, forcing the Mystice to play up hill for most of the night.
Nor was it Jonquel Jones, alone. She had 7, so did Courtney Williams. The Sun shot 57.1 percent in the first quarter, 50% from three, and forced four Mystics turnovers.
That dreaded phrase, leading to the #disrespeCT hashtag, is valid when it comes to a number of contributors on both teams Tuesday night. What a lift from Tianna Hawkins, eight points in quick succession in the second quarter, last of which on three to bring them to within 34-31.
Bria Holmes proided bench spark of her own, consecutive baskets, the second a driving layup, then a three to put them ahead 49-35. Hawkins then picked up her third foul, a critical issue with Delle Donne out.
Aerial Powers took her turn in the role of guest star in the third, scoring seven points as part of a run that brought Washington within two near the end of the third quarter, 71-69.
A wild fourth quarter brought Washington to within 88-85. Consecutive threes from Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones extended the lead to 94-85. That last cushion turned out to be enough.
“Man, JJ was going crazy today,” Williams said. “I told her, I felt like I could pull the ball from half court and she was going to look out for me and get the rebound. That’s huge when she has that mindset to go get every ball, every rebound. So that was huge for us.”
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