UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Guard Briann January is aware of how arduous it’s to face Alyssa Thomas from all of the years enjoying in opposition to her. However after Thursday’s 2021 WNBA playoff sport, January simply smiled and talked about how nice it was to be teammates on the Connecticut Sun.
“I’ve at all times admired her toughness,” January stated after Thomas put the Solar on her again in a 79-68 Recreation 2 victory of their semifinal sequence with the Chicago Sky. “There’s a number of gamers within the league that you realize play very arduous. I am glad she’s on my aspect, as a result of once we would play her, I would be like, ‘I am staying away from her screens.’ I imply she’s simply phenomenal.”
Thomas, enjoying in simply her fourth sport this season after getting back from an Achilles tendon damage, had 15 factors, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals coming off the bench. On an evening when the Solar, who misplaced the opener on Tuesday, have been in a must-win scenario and league MVP Jonquel Jones was struggling, Thomas was her previous self.
“You realize, that is in all probability one of many hardest issues I’ve ever gone by means of,” Thomas stated of the damage, which she suffered in January whereas enjoying abroad. “There’s plenty of arduous days. I am a perfectionist, and I am simply so used to bouncing again from issues. Days that weren’t good and I could not get after it or push myself have been irritating.
“You actually begin from floor zero simply to discover ways to stroll once more. It was a sluggish course of, a tough course of. However you’ve got simply obtained to have a good time the little issues.”
There may be nothing small about how huge Thomas has come up time and time once more in her WNBA profession. She has performed for years with labral tears in every of her shoulders. Final yr within the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida, she needed to depart Recreation 2 of the Solar’s semifinal sequence in opposition to Las Vegas with a dislocated shoulder, but returned for the remainder of the sequence.
But when Thomas suffered the Achilles damage, it appeared unlikely she would have the ability to play within the 2021 season. Thomas had different concepts. She appeared in her first game Sept. 15 and her second within the regular-season finale on Sept. 19, combining for 11 factors and 10 rebounds.
In Tuesday’s loss, she had seven factors and two rebounds. Thursday, with the Solar falling behind 11-0 to start out the sport, issues regarded shaky for the highest seed. Jones was restricted to simply 4 factors on 2 of 9 capturing, her lowest level complete in any of the Suns’ 53 wins she’s performed in since 2019.
Solar coach Curt Miller stated Jones obtained hit within the head virtually instantly after the sport tipped off.
“It wasn’t her night time,” Miller stated. “She’s obtained a goose egg like a golf ball on her head. She was affected by the physicality early. We tried to have her sit and watch so the sport would decelerate for her after which get her again in.”
Whereas it wasn’t an important sport for Jones, Thomas made certain it did not put the Solar in an 0-2 gap within the best-of-five sequence. Within the fourth quarter, Thomas scored or assisted on 13 factors because the Solar outscored the Sky 21-9 to shut out the sport. She completed along with her tenth profession playoff double-double.
“She really is among the hardest folks I’ve ever been round,” Miller stated of Thomas. “She’s needed to reinvent herself. She in all probability must be a ‘three’ participant on this league. Due to her shoulders, we have reinvented her as a facilitating ‘4.’ It is actually exceptional. She simply finds methods to achieve success with a few of the limitations she has bodily.”