Connecticut Sun (21-12) All-Star center Jonquel Jones proved that she’s the WNBA’s leading rebounder on Tuesday, collecting a career-high 22 boards in an 86-76 win over the home Mystics (17-15).
It was a matchup that featured the second and third best rebounding teams in the league, which despite Jones’ gaudy numbers, held true. The Sun narrowly won the advantage on the glass 48-44.
Jones and Co., distanced themselves, however, on the offensive side. They turned 13 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points, while the Mystics only produced five second-chance points from nine offensive boards.
This advantage was highlighted by a key sequence in the third quarter.
With just over a minute to go in the quarter, Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (game-high 26 points) missed the second of two free throws. She was somehow able to recover the rebound and find a wide open Shekinna Stricklen who nailed a three-pointer to give them a 62-52 advantage.
Tuesday’s bout also featured two teams heading in opposite directions in terms of three-point shooting.
Coming into the game, the Sun ranked second in the league from behind the arc. The Mystics, losers of four of their previous five contests, shot a meager 24 percent combined from deep in those losses.
On Tuesday night, led by Stricklen’s four triples, the Sun shot a blistering 50 percent, going 10 for 20 from outside.
The Mystics, on the other hand, struggled again, shooting just 25 percent on four made three-pointers. Two of the makes coming from backup guard Ivory Latta and another pair from rookie Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (14 points in 25 minutes off the bench).
Mystics coach Mike Thibault knew the disparity was a crucial component to the final outcome.
“You hold a team to 35 percent [shooting from the field], but they knocked down threes, and we didn’t,” Thibault said after the game. “They can put five scorers on the court at the same time who are committed on both ends and we’re still struggling to find that.”
The Sun boasts one of the most balanced starting lineups in the Eastern Conference and overwhelmed Thibault’s bunch with all five players reaching double figures.
Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics with a double-double, 24 points and 16 rebounds. She and Walker-Kimbrough were the only Mystics players to reach double figures. They were also alone in keeping the home team from laying down when the Capital One Arena faithful grew restless from Sun runs.
It was Walker-Kimbrough who ignited the crowd with an and-1 with 2:08 left in the third, cutting the Sun lead to just four after it ballooned to nine a couple minutes earlier.
It was Delle Donne who cut the deficit to 80-76 in the waning moments of the fourth, with her own and-1, when the Sun went up by as many as 13 points.
But the “commitment” Thibault spoke of (or lack thereof for his team) proved to be the difference maker again and again.
After Delle Donne’s clutch and-1 in the fourth, Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (20 points) sank a long jumper that pushed the lead to six. Latta had a chance to slice it in half with an open three off a nice look from Delle Donne, but missed. The Mystics were forced to foul and two free throws later, their deficit was suddenly 84-76 with just 45 seconds left in the game.
The Mystics have two regular season games left to gain more continuity, chemistry and camaraderie before the playoffs begin.
That starts with Friday’s matchup at home against the Seattle Storm.