The Connecticut Sun showed, albeit over a small sample size, that they can be competitive against the Las Vegas Aces without star Alyssa Thomas on the court. Whether they'll need to keep doing so for the rest of this WNBA semifinal series remains to be seen.
With the series tied at 1-1 and the likelihood Thomas could be sidelined due to injury, the Sun and Aces continue move on to Thursday night's Game 3 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
After opening this best-of-5 series with an impressive 87-62 upset of the top-seeded Aces, No. 7 seed Connecticut fell 83-75 in Tuesday's Game 2. Thomas, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder during the playoffs averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 boards while also posting a club-best 4.5 assists, suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter. When Thomas returned to the bench, her right arm was in a sling.
It's uncertain what the severity of the injury is at the moment. However, not having one of the league's top all-around players at a crucial point in the postseason is obviously a significant blow.
"Alyssa is the centerpiece of what we do," Sun coach Curt Miller told The Day. "She doesn't come out much. We don't have that player playing a ton of minutes."
It seems possible the Sun will move forward in the series without Thomas for the time being. Connecticut remained competitive Tuesday until it was outscored 24-12 in the fourth quarter. Vegas star and 2020 WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson had 29 points with a career-high seven blocks and converted a tiebreaking 3-point play with 1:03 left in the game.
"(Wilson) kept us in the game whole way, then won the game down the stretch," Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer told ESPN. "That's what leaders do, that's what MVPs do. That's what All-Stars and Olympians (do) and, yeah, we've got one. And she made plays."
The victory gives Vegas some renewed confidence following its poor showing in the opener. Angel McCoughtry, Dearica Hamby and Kayla McBride each had 11 points in support of Wilson's stellar performance on Tuesday. The Aces shot 47.7 percent and forced 17 turnovers after shooting just 33.8 percent and going 1 of 14 from 3-point range in Game 1.
"Nothing in this league is easy," Laimbeer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "We got some good performances by a lot of people."
Meanwhile, with Thomas' situation, the onus potentially falls on fellow Connecticut star DeWanna Bonner to carry even more of the load than she has already this season. Bonner, who averaged a team-leading 19.7 points during the regular season, scored 23 on Tuesday. Meanwhile teammates Briann January provided some needed support with 20 points and rookie Beatrice Mompremier recorded nine rebounds with three blocks in place of Thomas before fouling out Tuesday.
While Tuesday's finish was obviously disappointing for the Sun, the effort was not lost Miller - considering the circumstances and adversity his club was facing.
"Really proud of our tenacity, our fight," Miller added to ESPN.