Sunday, June 25, 2017

Good team basketball has Sun blazing bright in first month of WNBA season

Jasmine Thomas addresses media following game-high 23 points in Sun's win over Liberty. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- Analytics can tell us many things about a team. Numbers as offensive and defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and turnover rates are a good way to get a read.

The metrics, though, fall very short in the area of a key component: Chemistry. There is no real way to measure that intangible, one that is so important and; at times, elusive for teams to achieve.
On Friday, the Connecticut Sun exited Madison Square Garden with a hard-fought 94-89   victory over the New York Liberty. Surely, numbers such as a 116 efficiency on offense and 56 percent effective field goal mark suggested it was Connecticut’s night. The overlying factor in this win was that ability to trust one another to stay together in the face of adversity.
The Sun built a lead that reached 21 points in the third quarter. All good teams make a run, and the Liberty made theirs largely due to the work of Tina Charles on both ends of the floor. A Shavonte Zellous layup tied the game for the Liberty with 66 seconds to play in regulation. Connecticut answered with a mid-range jumper by Courtney Williams. Following a stop, Jasmine Thomas buried the proverbial dagger, a three-pointer that all but sealed it for the Sun.

“This was big,” Thomas said in the Sun locker room following the victory. “To get a road win like this is important, and it shows how we have matured as a team.”

Yes, team is the key word here. Thomas, to her credit, did appreciable damage throughout the game. The Duke product scored a game-high 23 points, including four threes from her guard position. The key was how this team has come together. Connecticut started 1-5 and had to deal with injuries to Lynetta Kizer and Morgan Tuck. Both are still unavailable. The Sun have since regrouped, and now have won five straight.  

“We have just come together as a team,” Thomas explained. “We do a lot of things together off the court. That bond makes you want to play so much harder on the court. You are playing for your teammates. We are very comfortable in our roles, and we look for each other on the floor.”

Looking for each other was evident early on. The Liberty doubled the post early. The Sun responded with a weak side pass, often resulting in an open look from three. For the night, Connecticut shot 12-of-24 from long distance. In the fourth quarter, the Liberty guarded the perimeter a little tighter, leaving one-on-one coverage in the paint. The Sun took advantage, looking to another Thomas, Alyssa. The 6-foot-2 forward out of Maryland came up big in the paint down the stretch, finishing with a 12-point, eight-rebound performance.

“It all goes through Alyssa,” Jasmine Thomas said.”She plays hard and gives us energy and offensive rhythm. Everyone knows if she is double-teamed, she will find you.” Jasmine’s point was well taken, as Alyssa Thomas led all Sun players with eight assists.  
On the Liberty side, coach Bill Laimbeer could only lament a wasted shooting performance. “We shot 53 percent from the field,” he pointed out. “That should be enough to get you the win.” On this night, however, they ran into a team that is on a hot streak.

“We are playing together as a team.” Jasmine Thomas said. “That is so big.”

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