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2021 WNBA playoffs – Alyssa Thomas saves the Connecticut Solar’s season

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Guard Briann January is aware of how arduous it’s to face Alyssa Thomas from all of the years enjoying towards her. However after Thursday’s 2021 WNBA playoff recreation, 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 collection with the Chicago Sky. “There’s just a few gamers within the league that you realize play very arduous. I am glad she’s on my aspect, as a result of after we would play her, I might be like, ‘I am staying away from her screens.’ I imply she’s simply phenomenal.”

Thomas, enjoying in simply her fourth recreation 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opener on Tuesday, had been in a must-win state of affairs and league MVP Jonquel Jones was struggling, Thomas was her outdated self.

“You realize, that is most likely one of many hardest issues I’ve ever gone by,” Thomas stated of the damage, which she suffered in January whereas enjoying abroad. “There’s quite a lot 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 had 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 have simply obtained to have a good time the little issues.”

There’s 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 12 months within the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida, she needed to go away Recreation 2 of the Solar’s semifinal collection towards Las Vegas with a dislocated shoulder, but returned for the remainder of the collection.

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-Zero to begin the sport, issues seemed shaky for the highest seed. Jones was restricted to only 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 evening,” 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 recreation for Jones, Thomas made positive it did not put the Solar in an 0-2 gap within the best-of-five collection. 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 together with her 10th profession playoff double-double.

“She really is without doubt one of the hardest individuals I’ve ever been round,” Miller stated of Thomas. “She’s needed to reinvent herself. She most likely ought to 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 among the limitations she has bodily.”

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