Their Saturday afternoon game against the Minnesota Lynx — a rematch of last weekend’s season-opening loss — was a case of déj 1/4 u00e0 vu for the Connecticut Sun.
Another halftime edge over the Lynx. Another lead they saw slip away, in part due to fatigue, in the third quarter. Another disheartening loss, this one by a score of 78-69 and even more tough to swallow as Connecticut has yet to secure a win through their first four games of the 2020 season.
The Sun (0-4) had some bright spots on Saturday — Bria Holmes (seven points) looked more aggressive out of the gate, and Brionna Jones (15 points, seven rebounds) had good moments as well, adding after the game that it was the first game where she “wanted to go at them” and make her defenders guard her.
But as was apparent over the last week, even a huge outing from DeWanna Bonner (28 points including five three-pointers in 38 minutes on Sunday) is not enough to push the team into the win column. And even a bit more help from the rest of the starters in putting points on the board wasn’t enough to compensate for a fatigued Alyssa Thomas (0-for-5 from the floor, three points in 39 minutes), who struggled to find her shot for the second-straight game.
“We played hard again. We’re tired, we’re just defeated a little bit mentally,” head coach/general manager Curt Miller said. “We’ve had leads three [games] out of four at halftime. So we know we’re close. We’ve just got to string together two halves.”
Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles and her frontcourt mate, the former UConn star Napheesa Collier, overcame early foul trouble to dominate the Sun in the paint, where the Lynx finished with a 36-22 edge. And while Connecticut had done a good job of keeping the Lynx off the offensive glass in their first meeting, Minnesota notched 21 second-chance points off 12 offensive boards this time around.
“When you play such good defense and you get first-shot misses and can’t clean up the defensive rebound, it’s disappointing and then it’s deflating when they kick it out and then score later and you find yourself on defense for 30, 35, maybe above 35 seconds sometimes,” Miller said.
The Lynx improved to 3-1 thanks to their trio of 15-plus point scorers: Collier was just short of a double-double (17 points, nine rebounds to go with four assists and four blocks), while Fowles added 21 points and 13 rebounds in just under 27 minutes. Crystal Dangerfield, who started her second straight game with Lexie Brown sidelined with a concussion, hurt the Sun again with 17 points of her own, including three treys in the momentum-shifting third quarter.
Despite an ugly first quarter in which the Sun had more turnovers (five) than made field goals (three), Connecticut led most of the first half. They got to the free-throw line early and often, where they went 14-for-19 before halftime, and forced Fowles to sit for most of the first half after picking up early fouls. Connecticut also caused problems on the defensive end, converting 11 first-half Minnesota turnovers into 12 points of their own. Bonner fired off four threes in the second period alone to help the Sun’s lead blossom to 10 at the 2:27 mark before going into the break with a 42-35 advantage.
But the Lynx came out with an 18-12 run to start the third quarter, which featured eight straight points from Dangerfield to snatch back the lead. A Bonner steal-and-score in the final 20 seconds of the period gave Connecticut a two-point advantage but Dangerfield answered with a three on the next possession to put Minnesota ahead by a point going into the fourth.
Jasmine Thomas would briefly tie things up at 65-all early in the fourth, but 11 unanswered points from Minnesota sealed the loss for the Sun, who shot 3-for-17 and were outscored 17-9 in the final period and only converted one basket from the field in the final six and a half minutes of the game.
Theresa Plaisance was able to take the court for the first time this season, playing six minutes in the second half as she starts to work her way up to more regular game-play. Prior to the game, Miller announced that Briann January has finally arrived in Florida after two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests and, if all goes well, could be back with the team as early as Wednesday.
Connecticut has two full days of rest before its next game, a 9 p.m. meeting with the Seattle Storm on Tuesday, the start of a brutal stretch of 10 games in 19 days.
Bonner has big plans for how she’ll spend the time off: “I don’t think I’m going to leave my room,” she said.
Alexa Philippou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.