WNBA

Sun will get heat check on 6-1 start with two games against the undefeated Aces

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Temps de lecture : 2 mn 🕗

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut wasn’t supposed to be this good.

The Sun lost 2021 league MVP Jonquel Jones to New York and coach Curt Miller to Los Angeles in the offseason, yet they are 6-1 and leading the Eastern Conference. Next up, two games this week against the defending champs and current Western Conference leading Las Vegas Aces (6-0).

The games on Tuesday and Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena will be the first between the teams since last year’s WNBA Finals.

Las Vegas was expected to continue its dominance after adding two-time MVP Candace Parker to an already loaded roster.

Connecticut’s hot start under new coach Stephanie White has been more surprising — though maybe not to her.

“You know, this group has had one of the best records in the league for the last, I don’t even know how many years,” White said. “And yes, we lost a big piece, but we gained a lot of other pieces that complement our core group so well. And this core group has played together and they understand how to win and they understand that, you know, every single day is going to be a battle, and they embrace that.”

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The Sun’s returning core includes DeWanna Bonner, who is averaging 16 points per game, Brionna Jones (14.9 points per game) and, perhaps most importantly, Alyssa Thomas (14.4 points per game). Thomas has six double-doubles in seven games and is averaging a league-high 11.6 rebounds along with a career-high 6.9 assists per game.

“She’s relentless,” White said. “She never stops. She has a high IQ. She demands excellence from those around her. And, you know, I think that for me, it’s a blessing and a bonus to be able to have have somebody with her toughness, energy and mentality on the floor.”

The Sun are also at or near the top of the league in most defensive categories, giving up just 76.1 points per game and just 31.7 in the paint.

“I think we have a really smart group,” said Bonner, now in her 14th WNBA season. “I think we had a really good group last year defensively, but this year I think we’ve just got a lot of people, a lot of gritty people that want to play defense.

“We know we have a lot of offensive power, but if we lock in on defense, I really believe that this team is pretty much unstoppable,” she added.

But the team still has a lot to prove. Each of its wins have come by fewer than 10 points, and the lone loss was a 16-point thrashing by the New York Liberty, who along with the Aces were picked before the season as favorites to make it to the Finals.

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“I think every day we’re getting better,” Jones said. “We’re closing out tight games and finishing close games that we could have let slip. But we’re definitely grinding our way to these wins in the end.”

White said she’s excited for the challenge of this week, but her team doesn’t consider the games against Las Vegas to be a rematch of the Finals — her team is just too different from the one that lost to the Aces last year.

“Even though the season is a sprint and a marathon, we’re still early in the season,” she said. “I think having an opportunity to get Vegas a couple of times right now is really good for us to figure out where are we matching up with a team that won a championship and that’s a favorite to win a championship and where are some areas that we need to continue to grow and get better.”

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AP Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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