Alyssa Thomas reaches new milestone in Connecticut Sun’s push for WNBA title

·4 min read
Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun drives to the basket during the game against the Chicago Sky.
Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun drives to the basket during the game against the Chicago Sky.

All-star forward Alyssa Thomas hit a new milestone Sunday night with the Connecticut Sun, recording her ninth double-double of the season and moving into first place all-time in post-season scoring in franchise history. Her performance boosted the No. 3 seed to a 68-63 win over the 2021 WNBA champions Chicago Sky in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series.

The nine-year veteran, who’s played her entire career with the Sun, now has 385 points in 25 postseason contests. Thomas also added 10 rebounds, seven assists and one steal in the victory, which came down to the wire before Connecticut pulled off the upset in Chicago.

DeWanna Bonner led the Sun in scoring with 15 points and nine rebounds, and she scored the final four points of the game, making two free throws at the 1:31 mark in the fourth quarter and an easy bucket – with an assist from Thomas – to seal the win with 3.8 seconds left.

“I still see people sleeping on our group,” wrote Thomas in a first-person essay earlier this month for The Players’ Tribune. “I feel like we have a lot of underrated players on our team. And with us falling short in the past, people underestimate us. But honestly, it’s all fuel. We just want to win in the worst way.”

That fuels come from a string of promising runs the last three years, beginning with a loss in the 2019 WNBA Finals to the Washington Mystics. Connecticut, which is still chasing the first WNBA title in franchise history, made it the semifinals the last two seasons, losing to the Aces in 2020 and falling to the Sky in four games last season.

It was particularly disappointing for Thomas, who had missed all but the last two games of the regular season in 2021 after suffering an Achilles injury that January. But she came off the bench in all four playoffs games to contribute significantly, averaging 11.8 points, six rebounds and 3.8 assists in 23.3 minutes per game.

This season, the 6-2 Thomas has come back full strength, leading the team in minutes played (32.1) and posting averages of 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 36 starts. Her tenacity earned Thomas her third turn as an All-Star, two Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors and most recently, she was named AP’s Comeback Player of the Year.

What’s more, Thomas recorded the franchise’s first triple-double in a win over the Minnesota Lynx on July 22, finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Then she did it again four games later, scoring 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Phoenix. Thomas is just the fifth WNBA player with multiple triple-doubles, and she joined Chicago’s Candace Parker (19 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, four steals and six blocks on Sunday) and New York’s Sabrina Ionescu as the only players with more than one this season.

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“I’ve never been around someone that’s as consistent with her effort, her passion to play,” Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said of Thomas during their first-round series vs. the Dallas Wings. “She’s elite basketball smart. She sees things before they happen, she really understands the game. So that combination of effort, basketball IQ makes her really special.”

Born in Harrisburg, Pa., Thomas had a standout college career at Maryland where she earned All-American honors and led the Terrapins to a Final Four appearance her senior year. She finished school as the all-time leader in points and rebounds in program history. Thomas was picked quickly in the 2014 WNBA Draft, going fourth overall to the New York Liberty and draft-day traded to the Sun, where she’s been ever since.

“Then it’s the versatility,” added Miller. “There’s no one in this league [who] plays harder. There’s no one, no one, zero, there’s no one in this league that’s more versatile defensively, that can guard more positions than her.”

“I’m just trying to keep those little tidbits in my head,” explained Thomas to regarding her thought process on court. “Because when we think about defense as a whole, it’s good to know the plays, but our job is to break down their plays. So, when the play’s broken down and the shot clock is winding down, what is their tendency? What are they gonna go to? That’s what I try to focus on.”

Thomas undoubtedly will take that focus into Game 2 vs. the Sky on Wednesday night in Chicago.

“I love playoff time,” writes Thomas. “I’m trying to take it to another level. I know I still have another gear in me.”

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