Post-season play is in full swing for the WNBA, with the Phoenix Mercury facing off against the Las Vegas Aces and the Chicago Sky taking on the Connecticut Sun in the semi-finals. The Mercury earned its spot by defeating the New York Liberty in round one and the Seattle Storm in round two. The Sky defeated the Dallas Wings in round one and prevailed against the Minnesota Lynx in round two.
The WNBA’s current playoff structure allows the two teams with the best regular season records to sit out until the semi-finals. This suits the Connecticut Sun, which dominated post-season play with a league-record 14 consecutive wins. The best-of-five semi-finals began on Tuesday night and continue tonight.
Veteran Sun guard Jasmine Thomas, who got engaged to Sun teammate Natisha Hiedeman just before the end of regular season, said the team has been laser-focused since returning from the Olympic break. The goal was to secure the one seed and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
“[The goal] is to win a championship,” said Thomas. “Over the last few years with this organization, there’s always been something. Whether it was injuries, core players leaving, any type of thing that has been a piece of adversity for us to face, we’ve been able to step up to that challenge and form the team we wanted and get the chemistry and the culture the way that we wanted. You’re seeing the result of that.”
As post-season honors began to be announced, the Sun is getting respect. Forward Jonquel Jones, a contender for league MVP, and guard Briann January were named WNBA All-Defensive First Team, and Thomas and forward Brionna Jones were named All-Defensive Second Team.
“Our young players have really developed and grown over the years, but we’ve seen multiple times this year where anybody can go up from our bench,” said Thomas, who is in her seventh year with Connecticut. “You like to play where you feel valued, where you have a role. That’s the way I’ve built my career.”
The only team in the semi-finals that has won WNBA titles is the Mercury. Any of the other three would be first-time championships, which is inspiring the level of play. “Being part of bringing that first championship to Connecticut is what really motivates me,” said Thomas.