Why I think the Sun can beat the Aces without Alyssa Thomas, and more

Even without Thomas for three quarters in Game 2, A'ja Wilson had to be the superstar she is to pull out the W.

Good morning. We have two more semifinals games today. Hell yeah!

Let’s dive right into it.

I think the Sun can still win this series against the Aces without Alyssa Thomas. But it’s gonna be real hard.

The Aces-Sun series is tied 1-1 because the MVP is — you guessed it — really damn good. A’ja Wilson scored 29 points on 19 shots in Game 2, including two and-one makes inside the final 63 seconds of the game to seal the win, 83-75, avenging an embarrassing 25-point loss in Game 1.

The good news for Connecticut: this game was close until the final seconds despite Alyssa Thomas not playing in the last three quarters due to a shoulder injury that will also keep her out of Game 3. There’s reasons to believe they can do that again — and maybe this time win.

Even without Thomas in Game 2, the Sun stuck to the plan of trying to force the Aces into taking long 2-point shots, 3-point shots they were uncomfortable with, and letting A’ja Wilson try and beat them by herself. DeWanna Bonner, Beatrice Mompremier and Brionna Jones clung to Angel McCoughtry and Dearica Hamby — two of the team’s best play-makers — and Sun guards double down off of poor shooters. The Aces have one (maybe) fatal flaw — they don’t shoot the basketball from distance, and with few exceptions, they’re pretty bad at making them.

In the regular season, the Aces steamrolled teams because their three star forwards (McCoughtry, Wilson and Hamby) dominated the paint. The Aces attempted and made the most shots in the paint of all teams. But Game 1 didn’t go so well for them because the Sun are one of the few teams in the W with the personnel to guard those players 1-on-1 in the post. Thomas is maybe the best defensive player in the world, Bonner should probably be on the All-Defensive 1st team, and Mompremier and Jones are better than average defenders, too. That group held McCoughtry and Hamby to score 12 points on 14 shots combined in Game 1, making Wilson’s 19 points not matter much.

Losing Alyssa Thomas completely sucks. She single-handedly took Hamby out of Game 1, and on the other end, she’s elite at running the floor in transition. The Sun will miss her a helluva lot. But this series isn’t over even if she doesn’t step on the court again.

Stick with me through some nerd stuff.

Watch this clip right here, which ends in A’ja Wilson taking a long-2 that she misses:

Let’s look at how they got here.

First, notice Bonner and January clinging to McCoughtry and Kayla McBride, essentially make this a 3-on-3 game. (Note: January’s defense on McBride has been crucial, too). From here, Kaila Charles in the bottom right corner knows her assignment, Jackie Young, is a bad shooter, so she helps middle to protect the rim in case Robinson drives. Stay focused on the ball now … Jones and Natisha Hiedeman opt to switch on the pick, again focusing on the threat of Robinson attacking the hoop. They strategically leave Wilson open for the shot they want her to take. Obviously, it’d be ideal if Jones’ closeout came quicker, but even though it doesn’t, this is still a low percentage shot for any shooter.

Let’s go again:

On this play, Wilson made Connecticut pay, but it took a lot of energy for her to make a difficult shot. Once again, Young is such a non-threat from distance that January abandons her entirely at the wing to instead double Wilson along with Bonner. Wilson ultimately gets January to bite on a shot-fake, and sink a tough mid-range shot. This is why she’s the MVP. But Connecticut is hoping that Wilson can’t do this consistently for two more games out of three.

It’s also important to note that the rookie, Beatrice Mompremier, has proven that — if she can stay out of foul trouble — she’s an ample replacement to bother any of the Aces’ scoring forwards at the rim or in space. To me, she’s the key to the Sun surviving Thomas’s injury and keeping this defensive plan in motion.

If the Aces win this series, it’s probably because A’ja Wilson was the best player in the WNBA this season, she’s strong enough to fight through double teams and she’s able to consistently knock down shots in the mid-range. And hell, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if this happens. But if the MVP is anything less than great, Connecticut is going to remain in every game this series, and maybe, juuust maybe, they can pull off the upset.


Natasha Cloud helped make the Mystics’ home arena a potential voting supercenter

Southeastern D.C. had no chance of hosting a voting supercenter for the November election until many, including Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, pushed to turn the team’s home arena into one.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA), according Events DC, was not available to serve as a voting supercenter in one of the city’s poorest wards. On Wednesday, after the report from The Post and a push from Cloud on Twitter, Events DC President Greg O’Dell said he would make it available if needed, and the D.C. Events Board is now inspecting the arena to see if it can be used in November.

Shouts to Natasha Cloud for once again using her platform for good.


Here’s how to watch tonight’s games

Game 1: Minnesota Lynx vs. Seattle Storm at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Game 2: Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Here’s some DraftKings tips

Guards to pick

DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun ($10,700) - Without Thomas, Bonner is going to have to step up even more. She’ll take a ton of shots. Play her.

Briann January, Connecticut Sun ($6,600) - The exact statement above, but for January. This is a low price for who could be the Sun’s second-leading scorer.

Bridget Carleton, Minnesota Lynx ($6,100) - She might not get hot shooting the ball tonight like she did in Game 1, but she’s going to play major minutes if Fowles remains out of the rotation. Remember, Lexie Brown is out of the bubble entirely.

Guards to avoid

Angel McCoughtry, Las Vegas Aces ($7,700) - Bonner’s locked her down for two games. There’s nothing to suggest she won’t do it again.

Forwards to pick

A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces ($12,300) - This is a super high price, but Wilson has the potential to be the top scorer of the night. The Sun want her to take mid-range shots. If she’s on, she’ll light up the box score.

Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx ($11,100) - Did you see her play the other night?

Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun ($7,600) - Jones played 20 more minutes in Game 2 than she did in Game 1 after Thomas’s injury, and scored 23 fantasy points. She’s a great budget option.

Forwards to avoid

Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm ($8,900) - It’s the playoffs, and more shots will be going to Jewell Loyd and Stewie. Howard’s a supplementary offensive piece, and that’s a high price for a mid-level fantasy contributor.

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If you have any leads, please email: mellentuck10@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter: @mellentuck. I miss doing this as a full-time job. All of my previous work can be found at SB Nation, where I worked for the past four years before being laid off due to the pandemic. I’ve also written for The New York Times twice this year, which you can read here and also here.