Could Connecticut’s Bench Be A Difference Maker In The Finals?

Players like Brionna Jones could tilt the odds in the Sun’s favor in Game 2 tonight.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

When the Las Vegas Aces were up 21–9 partway through the first quarter during Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, it looked like the Connecticut Sun were completely out of their element. However, Connecticut found its rhythm soon after, outscoring after the Aces 21–9 in the second quarter, and taking a 38–34 lead into halftime. While Las Vegas eventually won the game 67–64, the Sun proved that they were a force to reckon with and that they belonged in the Finals.

It’s no secret that the Aces are loaded with offensive talent. A’ja Wilson (the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year) and Kelsey Plum have been lights out from the field throughout much of the season, Jackie Young has gone off for multiple 20+ point games, and Chelsea Gray has been lethal throughout the playoffs

How can Connecticut compete with that?

Players on the Connecticut Sun gather during a timeout (Connecticut Sun Twitter)

Firstly, the Sun roster boasts some pretty incredible players as well. Jonquel Jones is a double-double machine when she is at her best, and was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week when she averaged 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in 29.4 minutes per game during the week of May 30–June 5. Jones was also named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team this season. 

Alyssa Thomas has also shined for the Sun. Thomas was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in May and July, earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors twice, and recorded two triple-doubles over the course of the year. WNBA players and fans were surprised when Thomas was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team as she finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. 

Secondly, Connecticut’s bench consistently outperforms Las Vegas’ bench. The wildcard in this series is WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones. Jones, a first-time All-Star in 2022 and the WNBA’s Most Improved Player a year ago, made the most of her opportunities in a key reserve role this season. She averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 36 games, en route to being named a 2022 WNBA All-Star—making her the only non-starter selected to compete in the competition.

Brionna Jones single-handedly outscored Las Vegas’ bench during Sunday’s matchup—something that she also did during two out of three of Connecticut’s regular season games against the Aces (Jones was a starter in the third game). 

Dijonai Carrington and Odyssey Sims are also difference makers off of the bench for the Sun. The fact that Carrington did not score during Game 1 of the Finals should worry the Aces. Carrington had 12 points during Game 3 against Chicago that helped turn around the series for Connecticut, and she had 13 points during two of the Sun’s games against Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. Her teammate Odyssey Sims scored 10 points during Connecticut’s dominant Game 4 win over the Sky and had two games in the series where she shot 75% from the field.

Game 1 of the Finals demonstrated that Las Vegas is not invincible. It’s going to take a whole team effort to take down Becky Hammon and the Aces, but Connecticut just defeated the defending WNBA Champions by finding a way to get every single one of their players on the scoreboard. The question is, can the Sun utilize their depth to win their first-ever WNBA Championship?

You can watch Game 2 of the WNBA Finals tonight at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN or TSN (Canada). 

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