Jonquel Jones sets records as Connecticut splits Finals series 1-1 with 99-87 win over Washington
Jonquel Jones led the Connecticut Sun in evening up the 2019 WNBA Finals with a 32-point, 18-rebound performance
WASHINGTON D.C. – In game two of the WNBA Finals, the missing piece of Connecticut Sun’s puzzle finally took its place as Washington’s top player left the game early as the Sun won 97-86. With the victory, the best-of-five series is even at 1-1.
Getting center Jonquel Jones offensive touches was the goal for Connecticut before returning to Mohegan Sun Arena for game three. Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne left the floor three minutes into the game suffering from back spasms.
“On the very first lay-up that she went up for, it grabbed on her, and she came down and just immediately said, “Give me a sub.” Washington coach Mike Thibault said.
Connecticut coach Curt Miller and the Sun had a choice: Shine bright and stick to their plan of in-the-paint dominance or fall under the abrupt exit of the league’s best player.
“We’ve had this happen in the past, and this is the benefit of having a core group that’s been together for four years, is that we didn’t have to address it,” Miller said. “We have such great respect for Tianna [Hawkins]. We have such great respect for Emma [Meesseman], and what Kristi Toliver– I coached Kristi Toliver my first year in the league, and I know as a leader what she can do and put teams on her back herself.”
Without Delle Donne, a textbook post defender and Washington’s offensive engine, there wasn’t a definite answer for Jones. Washington collapsed and shooting fell to 35 percent in the first quarter.
Jones worked the post with 18 points and 10 rebounds at the half. The Sun led 56-46 at halftime, but the Mystics pulled themselves together and outscored the Sun 23-17 in the third quarter.
Washington forward Aerial Powers was electric, charging to the basket and jump started Washington with seven third quarter points along with forward Meesseman who came alive late with nine points of her own. As Jones made noise offensively, she collected personal fouls too, slowing the Sun’s offensive momentum. Washington completed a 10-0 run.
“We decided not to start her in the fourth quarter by an extra minute or two,” Miller said about Jones. “We knew we weren’t going to do that for a very long. The harder one was, do you give her a minute blow? Do you give her 90 seconds when she picks up her fifth? But we decided to roll with it. We thought it was a crucial point. Could we separate?”
Jones re-entered with 7:56 left in the game and continued her record setting performance. A three pointer from her with 2:04 remaining sealed the win. Silence came over the Entertainment and Sports Arena in what could be the Mystics last home game of the 2019 season.
It was Jones’ night to own as she scored 32 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double. She earned the first 30-15 output in a Finals game. Her performance off the glass was a single-game rebounding record in the Finals.
Guards Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams contributions stayed constant variables for Connecticut. Thomas has played in every second of this series and Williams helped halt Washington’s late third-quarter run. Williams performed efficiently for 22 points and six assists. Thomas added another double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“I’ll say this to my dying days, I don’t think there’s a better defender in the league, a tougher defender in the league, and she anchors what we want to do,” Miller said about Thomas. “And then offensively she’s such an extra facilitator and keeps us in attack mode. So, it’s just really, really hard to take her out, and she’s going to gut it out.”
Washington’s bench contributed 50 points as Meesseman scored 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds. When Hawkins replaced Delle Donne, she collected three fouls in a three-minute span of the second quarter. Hawkins regroupled and seized her moment with 16 points and six rebounds.
“I know my opportunities are different each night,” Hawkins said. “I’ve just been constantly telling myself to stay ready when my name is called.”
Washington now has their backs against the wall with the next two games on Connecticut’s home court at Mohegan Sun on Sunday, Oct 6. The four-day break between game two and game three is now a bright spot of the Finals for Washington. It gives the Mystics time to recover and for Delle Donne’s back to heal from the abrupt onset of spasms.
Delle Donne’s injury is a sour taste of déjà vu, reminiscent of her knee injury in the 2018 Finals where the Seattle Storm swept Washington and of the three games the Mystics lost when she broke her nose this season. But in Thibault’s book it’s still not an adequate excuse for the No. 1 seed to drop game two.
“You know, our bench scored 50 points,” Thibault said. “I mean, that’s a big plus for us. She and Emma and Aerial [Powers] did a good job getting us back in the game. We just couldn’t get stops in the last four minutes, and we had a tough shooting night with a couple other people.”
Meesseman has two more games to improve her defensive performance against Jones and Toliver can improve from her 6-of-20 shooting slump of game two.
“That’s why it’s a series, and we’ll continue to get better and continue to get stronger, and confidence isn’t going anywhere,” Toliver said. “The ball is still going to go up when I’m open. I’m not worried about it. And I like playing on the road, so looking forward to it.”
An MRI tomorrow will determine the severity of Delle Donne’s injury and her ability to play in the remainder of the Finals.
Game 3 takes place Sunday Oct. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET. and will be broadcast on ABC.
- Points in the Paint: Sun 58, Mystics 46
- Second Chance Points: Sun 27, Mystics 10
- Fastbreak Points: Sun 6, Mystics 6
- Biggest Lead: Sun 14, Mystics 3
- Lead Changes: 1
- Times Tied: 3
- Officials: #39 Michael Price, #34 Maj Forsberg, #9 Tim Greene
- Attendance: 4,200 (Sellout)
- Jonquel Jones’ 32 points are the most in a Finals game since Oct. 5, 2011 when Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry had 38 points and Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus had 36.
- Washington totaled 52 bench points, the highest total in WNBA playoff history. Forward Emma Meesseman (23), forward Tianna Hawkins (16), forward Aerial Powers (11) and guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (2) combined to top the previous high of 50 set by the Detroit Shock in 2007.
- Mystics guard Kristi Toliver tallied a game-high seven assists, her second time this postseason leading the team in assists.