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WNBA: Connecticut Sun kicks off Commissioner Cup match

The Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm meet on Thursday at 21:00 ET (Amazon Prime) in the first Commissaris Cup match in Phoenix. Before this historic event, we offer you a taste of both sides, and start with this one for the sun.

The Connecticut Sun may be considered the underdogs in the Commissaris Cup game, but if it is, it is not much.

The Sun actually had the best record of any team in the East or West in the Commissaris Cup position at 9-1, while the Storm was 8-2. And, as Connecticut coach Curt Miller pointed out Monday, the sun is a loss of overtime for the Storm, who scored half a game ahead of the Storm and the Las Vegas Aces for first place in the regular season. WNBA position.

Dissatisfied with starting the season, the Sun proved many people wrong by going 14-6 and becoming one of the three frontrunners in the league without superstar Alyssa Thomas, who is out this season with a torn Achilles.

“We know we can play with them,” Sun MVP candidate Jonquel Jones said of the upcoming championship game against Seattle. “We know they are a very good team and we have a lot of respect for them. But we also understand what we are capable of bringing to the table and what we can do. So we expect to win and we expect to go out and just play good basketball. ”

The reason Seattle can be considered the favorite is because it came with higher expectations this season and that it is the defending WNBA champion. Not only that, but it has won two championships in three years and the best three in the game: Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird (all in 2021) Olympic gold medalists with Team USA).

Because they won it overtime game against the sun in Everett, Wash., on May 25, the Storm (16-5) is in first place in the WNBA, one game ahead of the Aces and one and a half games before the sun. They later beat Connecticut 89-66 in the second and final regular season meet between the two teams on June 13 in Uncasville, Conn.

“The last game they beat us pretty much,” Sun All-Star DeWanna Bonner said. “We watched the video and hopefully we can do a little better. … It was our first game to lose JJ (against a EuroBasket bet), so we had to adjust a bit. But that was no excuse, because I just think we did not play with the best intensity and the best fire as we always do, especially on defense. ”

“I certainly do not doubt our efforts,” Miller said of the June 13 loss. “Our group plays hard. They jumped on us, all credit to Seattle in the game. To try to play without JJ for the first time, we had to play with different groups. We started DiJonai (Carrington) in that game, starting her first career. So there were a lot of things we tried, and we played out that night, hat off to Seattle. We are usually not beaten at home, let alone how we were. ”

In addition to J. Jones missing the June 13 game, Miller actually missed the May 25 game after being suspended due to a comment about the weight of Aces center Liz Cambage. Miller has since apologized and the two have since made up. Star defense guard Briann January also missed the May 25 game.

“We have not played Seattle at full strength this year,” Miller said, “so we are excited to continue this game to see where we are and play with full hand.”

As Miller noted, his team and Seattle rely heavily on three stars for offensive production. The difference is that two of the stars for Seattle (Loyd and Bird) are backs. Connecticut deals with the forecourt of J. Jones, Bonner and a third All-Star in Brionna Jones.

“It’s interesting that we’re wired the same way,” Miller said. ‘If you look at their three, Bird, Stewie and Loyd, they play the most minutes. They take the most shot efforts. … They play through them and there is an intention to play through them. And then you have other players, (Katie Lou) Samuelson and (Stephanie) Talbot who shoot great. (Mercedes) Russell and Ezi (Magbegor), a large two-headed center monster. And so they complement so well.

We are built the same way. We play through our 3, 4, 5. So we play through DeWanna, JJ and Bri Jones. … Like their significant other talented players, there is not enough talk about how unselfish and how much Jasmine Thomas and Bri January spend on defense. If Bri January is not the first team defensive this year, then I do not know what else she has to do. She literally sometimes likes a lot of the All-Star 2 guards at single digits and just does fantastic work. And then there’s Jas – no one plays more defensively in the points ladder than she does in the league. They are just unsung heroes. But there is an intention with us that we should play through our 3, 4, 5.. JJ must touch. Bri Jones must touch. DeWanna must touch. ”

Miller understands what he’s up to when it comes to the big three Seattle.

“Bird dictates everything, she manipulates our defense, she manipulates the games,” he said. ‘She’s just the ultimate orchestrator. … Loyd, probably the best 2-guard in the world at the moment and can only score on so many different levels and then Stewie, what can you say? ”

Stewart and J. Jones virtually cancel each other out, as both can score from anywhere and put the ball on the floor and create at 6’4 ”-plus. They are both MVP candidates for a reason.

Bonner can play a similar kind of versatile attacking game, while Loyd and Bird will do what they do in the backyard.

The Sun, however, has an advantage because B. Jones scored better than that of Russell and Magbegor. She averages 15 points per game, while Russell and Magbegor average just 11.5.

“It’s always a tough battle when we play Seattle and we know we have to keep Stewie in check as much as possible,” B. Jones said. ‘And then it’s my job to work on Ezi and Mercedes and keep them out of the paint, keep them off the glass. But they will also have to protect us. We go back to them just as hard as they come to us. So I think we’m ready that way. … I’m looking forward to this match in the paint. ”

One big factor that everyone is talking about is the rest-against-rust debate. The Sun will be more at ease than the Storm, which, in addition to their three U.S. Olympians, has allowed Talbot and Magbegor to play for Australia. But Connecticut could also be more rusty.

“We need to remove the cobwebs,” Miller said. “We did not play a game for five weeks. This is the benefit of Stewie, Bird and Loyd; they played throughout this entire game, even though they may not be back with their core squad. As hard as we have trained and as much as we have now added, the guys’ training group just like the rest of the league, there is no substitute for matches. ”

Remember that there is $ 30,000 per player at stake for this game. The players of the losing team get only $ 10,000. The MVP of the game gets an extra $ 5,000.

“The money is great, especially for the newcomers,” Bonner said. “Being in the first one and having a chance to win is just great. It will go up in history forever. ”

“How often can you say in 2021 that you are doing something for the first time?” Ask Jones. ‘We can come in and possibly say that we are the first team to win the cup. So it’s a great honor and we understand it and we understand that it’s a good step for our team towards a WNBA championship. “

So we know that the sun has a good chance of winning. But what is it really going to take to do the job? Miller says it could come in handy.

“If we can keep them under 75, I like our record of 11-1,” he said. “I like that they only won two games (2-2) when they scored less than 80 points.”

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