Connecticut off to hot start, sits atop WNBA standings
NEW YORK (AP) — No team has gotten off to a hotter start then the Connecticut Sun.
Led by Jonquel Jones, the Sun (8-1) have won their last six games and have started to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the league. Connecticut has benefited from having an entirely healthy roster and a core group that’s been playing together for a few years.
“It definitely has helped us having this group together for a while,” said Alyssa Thomas.
Jones has been dominating on both ends of the court. She’s averaging 17.2 points, 12 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this season.
The Sun are well aware of their early playoff exits the past two seasons, losing at home to Phoenix both times in one-game playoffs.
“We definitely would love to get that bye to the semifinals,” Connecticut guard Jasmine Thomas said. “Either way, we feel we have a lot more experience now in those situations and should be fine.”
POWER POLL: A look at this week’s WNBA poll:
1. Connecticut (8-1): Sun are off to another strong start and Jonquel Jones has been a huge reason why, averaging 17 points, 13 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.
2. Los Angeles (4-3): Candace Parker is back after missing the first part of the season with a hamstring injury. That will provide a huge lift to the Sparks.
3. Washington (4-3): The Mystics have dropped two games in a row and now face a tough four-game road trip beginning against Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
4. Chicago (4-2): Diamond DeShields is starting to find her groove and the Sky have won three straight. DeShields averaged 13 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2 steals in the victories.
5. Las Vegas (4-3): The Aces are getting more comfortable with each other on the court and Kelsey Plum found her shooting stroke in recent victories.
6. Seattle (5-4): The Storm play eight of the next nine at home after going 2-2 on a recent road trip. They should get coach Dan Hughes back soon from his absence to battle cancer.
7. Minnesota (4-5): The Lynx have dropped four straight by a combined 19 points. They are looking for someone to hit the big shot late to close out games.
8. Indiana (4-4): Kelsey Mitchell is heating up on offense and the Fever are closing in last season’s win total: six.
9. Phoenix (2-4): Diana Taurasi has been practicing this week and should return soon from the back surgery in the offseason.
10. New York (3-5): The Liberty got stellar play from Sweden’s Amanda Zahui B., who hit seven 3-pointers in a win over Los Angeles. The problem is she’ll be gone for a few weeks for the EuroBasket tournament.
11. Dallas (1-5): The Wings won their first game of the season, beating Atlanta. They’ll try and string some victories together and will have to do it without Montenegro’s Glory Johnson, who is also playing in the EuroBasket.
12. Atlanta (1-5): It’s been a nightmare start of the season for the Dream. They’ll try and get it right with three of the next four games at home.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jones earned the honor for a record third straight week, helping Connecticut go 3-0. She averaged 17.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Other’s receiving votes included Natasha Howard of Seattle, Plum of Las Vegas, and, Kia Nurse and Zahui B. of New York.
HEY NOW, YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR
The league opened up voting for the All-Star Game that will be in Las Vegas on July 27 and also announced plans for festivities the night before the contest. The 3-point shootout will be back, as well as a skills challenge. It’s the first time those two events have been paired since 2006. The participants in the contests will be announced in July.
The league will also have a beach concert and a fan festival that weekend.
“The WNBA is excited to add the events of All-Star Friday Night to the calendar for AT&T WNBA All-Star 2019,” said league COO Christy Hedgpeth. “What better place than Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, for the WNBA’s most talented and dynamic players to headline a show. The competitions along with special entertainment and a festive beach party all combine to make the WNBA All-Star 2019 the place to be.”
Zahui. B. and Johnson aren’t the only two players headed to the EuroBasket tournament that will help countries reach the Olympic qualifying tournaments. The top six teams will qualify.
Maria Vadeeva (Russia) left Los Angeles last month. Bria Hartley (France) headed over from New York last week and Kiah Stokes (Turkey) has missed the Liberty’s entire season so far. Washington has been without Emma Meesseeman (Belgium) since early June.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Sparks at Mercury, Sunday. It’s always fun when these two rivals get together. Parker’s back for Los Angeles and Taurasi isn’t far behind.
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