WNBA semifinals: Alyssa Thomas lifts Sun over Aces despite dislocated shoulder; Storm put Lynx away

Cassandra Negley
·7 min read

The Seattle Storm pushed it to another level in the fourth quarter and put away the Minnesota Lynx, 89-79, to take a 2-0 lead in their semifinal series. It’s a deep hole for the Lynx as no team in WNBA history has come back from a two-game deficit in a best-of-five series.

It’s a much closer set of games in the other semifinal where the Connecticut Sun took a 2-1 lead over the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces. Alyssa Thomas led the Sun to a 77-68 victory despite a dislocated shoulder suffered on Tuesday. The Sun are also now one win away from reaching the finals for a second consecutive year.

Alyssa Thomas starts despite shoulder injury

Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) celebrates a basket against the Las Vegas Aces with guard Briann January (20) during the first half of Game 3 of a WNBA basketball semifinal round playoff series Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas played through a dislocated shoulder to lead the team to within one game of the final. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Players from other teams could hear Alyssa Thomas screaming when trainers popped her shoulder back in after she exited Game 2 on Tuesday night, ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe said on the broadcast.

That didn’t stop the star from starting Game 3. And she didn’t look phased at all.

Thomas carried the Sun, finishing with a double-double of 23 points on 10-for-21 shooting and 12 rebounds. She had four assists and three steals.

She powered the team at both ends of the floor in the final minutes to take the lead after trailing by seven with five minutes to play. Her six points over the last two minutes gave the Sun a lead back after league MVP A’ja Wilson hit two free throws for a 68-67 Aces’ advantage. It was a 20-4 run by Connecticut to complete the win that was again a defensive showing.

“I couldn’t go down like that,” Thomas told Rowe after the game about finding it in her to come back for Game 3. “I’m a fighter. It’s playoff time and this is the time for us to really show what we’re about.”

Rowe noted that Thomas could barely put her jacket on after the game because she was in so much pain.

“These are the moments we all live for,” Thomas said. “This is my time. I don’t want to lose.”

The 28-year-old out of Maryland has been playing with two torn labrums. An MRI showed no additional damage to her right shoulder, which was heavily taped. Ahead of the game, coach Curt Miller said it was about pain management. Afterward he put her performance a different way.

Four Sun starters were in double digits, including a double-double from DeWanna Bonner. She had 12 points and 10 rebounds and appeared to twist her ankle while falling on the foot of Angel McCoughtry with 3:58 to play. Her basket — a hard-fought drive after being doubled in the corner — brought the Sun within one, 64-63, with 4:05 to play.

MVP not enough for Aces

The Sun have led the Aces at half in each of the three games. A’ja Wilson, named league MVP last week, lifted Las Vegas in the final minute of Game 2 to even the series. But she’s had little help in any of the three games so far.

At the half Wilson had 14 points whereas no one else on the Aces had more than five.

She finished a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds with two assists, two steals and two blocks. She also had four of the team’s 16 turnovers, compared to five from the Sun. Connecticut led in steals, 11-3.

McCoughtry had 14 points, mostly in the second half as the Aces and Sun went back and forth. Danielle Robinson scored 11.

Dearica Hamby had another quiet night and was hampered by a leg injury, Rowe said in the broadcast.

Loyd drives Seattle’s offense again for 2-0 lead

Seven players scored for the No. 2 seed Storm in the fourth quarter and three had assists. Seattle entered the final 10 minutes with a 68-62 lead after the Lynx, seeded fourth, erased most of a 21-point deficit midway through the third.

Minnesota came within nine with around two minutes on the clock, but Napheesa Collier missed two 3-point attempts and Crystal Dangerfield missed hers down the stretch.

Jewell Loyd scored a team-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting. She hit 4-for-6 3-pointers and added five rebounds and four assists.

“I’m a great shooter,” Loyd told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in the post-game interview. “You put a lot of preparation into your shot and your game and you expect results.”

She had 25 in the first game on 8-for-9 shooting, missing only one of her five 3-point attempts. She averaged 15.5 points per game this season.

Seattle went into the locker room at halftime on a 14-0 run to go up, 46-33. Loyd had 12 of those points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.

The team as a collective was less sharp from behind the arc this time around (32.3 percent), but got the majority of its points in the paint instead on 50.8 percent shooting overall.

Breanna Stewart neared a triple-double with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. She added three steals and two blocks, though her 3-pointers weren’t falling (0-7). Stewart had three assists in the final quarter to bring the Storm back up.

Alysha Clark had 13 points and Natasha Howard added 11. The Storm got 21 points from the bench.

Lynx erase deficit in third quarter

The Lynx trailed by 21 points with 5:15 remaining in the third and cut into the lead by the end of the quarter. They compiled some 8-0 runs and began hitting their shots to come to within six at the end of the quarter.

Damiris Dantas scored eight points in the quarter and Collier came alive after sitting most of the second while in foul trouble. But they missed free throws late that could have cut deeper into the Storm’s lead.

Dantas had a career playoff-high 23 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Odyssey Sims had 18 and Collier chipped in 12. Her third foul came with 7:22 left in the first half, forcing her to play only nine minutes in the half.

The team hit 13 of their 28 3-pointers. It accounted for half of their made shots while they shot 40 percent overall.

Storm keep on streak of strong first half

The Storm continued to brew this postseason, shooting 55.2 percent (16 of 29) from the field in the first half. The Lynx had a tougher time again, making shooting 29.4 percent and hitting only 10 shots. Six of them were 3-pointers.

Stewart’s night included an incredible first-half pass to Sami Whitcomb on the baseline.

Collier and Jasmine Thomas began each of the semifinals games by reading a collective statement by the WNBPA regarding the Breonna Taylor ruling. The group called it “outrageous” and “disgusting.” They reminded fans that “justice is on the ballot” on Nov. 3.

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