Breezy's Out. Now What for the Sun?
Brionna “Breezy” Jones was the 2022 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year and finally got her chance to start this season with Jonquel Jones going to New York. She was recording numbers to put her on pace for her best season yet, averaging nearly 16 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.
Breezy is a strong post player who is effective on both sides of the ball. She can secure offensive and defensive rebounds and drive into the bucket if the space is there. She was shooting 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Her impact was immeasurable for the Sun so far this season. While teammates like Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner have had more show-stopping, jaw-dropping performances, Jones held it down game after game.
The Sun has now played three games without Brionna Jones, here's a breakdown of how each one went:
1. Sun 89-68 Lynx
The Sun handily beat the Lynx in the first game without Jones this season. Minnesota isn’t having the best season, with a 4-8 record at the time of this game being played. But this allowed for the Sun to see what worked best with Jones out. Rebecca Allen started in her place. Allen hasn’t proved to be as productive as Jones, only averaging 4.7 points per game and 2.5 rebounds. But this is partly because they play two different positions.
Allen is a guard compared to Jones who is a forward. Forwards are responsible for shooting and rebounding, similar to guards, but also have the added responsibility of “creating open lanes, passing the ball, being a defensive anchor, and setting up scoring opportunities.” Therefore, with Jones on the floor, the Sun are playing with three forwards and two guards. With Allen starting, they have two forwards, Thomas and Bonner, and three guards. In this game in particular, Allen scored eight points and recorded four rebounds.
Luckily when Allen isn’t hitting on all cylinders, the Sun are able to bring DiJonai Carrington off the bench. With Jones out, Carrington has been seeing even more playing time, with 22 minutes in this game alone. In that time, she was able to record 17 points and five rebounds. The Sun were able to blow past the Lynx with some ease but not all games will be easy in a league that is so competitive.
2. Sun 96-72 Sky
In Courtney Williams’ return to Mohegan, the Sun knocked off her new team with little to no issues. Despite a tight first quarter, once the Sun got rolling, there was no slowing them down.
Five players scored in the double digits, with four of them being starters. Carrington was the fifth, scoring 17 points in her second straight game. Again, Allen struggled in the starting role, only scoring five points. While she spent 23 minutes on the court, she was not extremely effective, especially compared to seeing Carrington who played 29 minutes off the bench.
Carrington brings a different energy to the court that not many players can replicate. Carrington was +28 to finish this game, which was the highest of any player who was on the court. This means that the point differential when Carrington was on the floor was 28 points. Second-year Olivia Nelson-Ododa finished out the game with four points but a point differential of 24 points. Both of these players showed that their impact on the court is important to helping this team win, especially without Brionna Jones for the remainder of the season.
3. Liberty 89-81 Sun
The newly formed New York Liberty “superteam” came to Mohegan for the first time this season, and gave the Sun a run for their money throughout the entire game before eventually edging them out. Sun fans saw their 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones return back to Connecticut and they certainly wished she was still on their side of the court. With 14 points for Jones, she had the highest point differential of any Liberty player.
DeWanna Bonner and Olivia Nelson-Ododa both had the task of guarding Jones throughout this game. Jones is in her sixth year in the league compared to Nelson-Ododa in her second so the youth and slight inexperience of Nelson-Ododa could be seen throughout this game. Despite this, Nelson-Ododa still played strong on defense and did well, keeping New York off the glass at times throughout the game. She hit a career-high in points with 14 this game.
On the other hand, Rebecca Allen continues to start in place of Brionna Jones. Although she doesn’t match the same level of scoring prowess as B. Jones, Allen was able to record a career-high five blocks against the Liberty. Carrington also had a career-high-scoring game with 23 points while teammate Alyssa Thomas recorded her third triple-double this season. Bonner did not see as many minutes as usual, not playing for most of the second and third quarters after scoring 10 points in the first quarter. She was 3-12 from the floor compared to Nelson-Ododa who was 6-6 and Carrington who was 8-11. While these two players were great for the Sun in terms of scoring, having a player like Brionna Jones in this game would’ve been extremely helpful. With Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart on the other side of the court, B. Jones would’ve helped the Sun defensively in terms of keeping these players out of the paint.
Brionna Jones is one of those players that will be hard to replace for the Sun this season and being without her, the Sun will need to continue to adjust and tinker things throughout the remainder of the year to be able to stay in contention for the playoffs, and hopefully a title. With the current level that Alyssa Thomas is playing at and the energy that DiJonai Carrington is bringing off the bench, Connecticut isn’t in too bad of a position but games aren’t easy in the WNBA. The Sun are facing off against the reigning champions, the Las Vegas Aces, in the third meeting of the two teams this season, on Sunday, July 1 at 3 PM EST on ABC. The Aces added Candace Parker from Chicago during the off-season and have been rolling this season, with a 14-1 record. This makes them only the third team ever to start a WNBA season 14-1 with the 1998 Houston Comets and 2016 Los Angeles Sparks. This game will be one to watch as the Aces just took down the New York Liberty 98-81. The two teams have already split the series played in Connecticut. In the first game, the Sun kept it close with the then-undefeated Aces. In the second game, on June 8th, DeWanna Bonner scored 41 points to down the Aces 94-77, giving Las Vegas their first loss of the season. The Sun were able to play the Liberty close with certain players not having their best game so today’s game will be one to watch.