UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – The fans in Mohegan Sun Arena stood, waved their towels above their head and yelled. Alyssa Thomas smiled sheepishly as teammate Jonquel Jones gave her a hug at midcourt.
They had plenty to be happy about. In 26 years of WNBA championships, no one has scored a triple-double in the Finals – until Thursday night. The Connecticut Sun’s Thomas scored 16 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 11 assists, helping her team stay alive in the WNBA Finals with a 105-76 over Las Vegas in Game 3. She became just the third WNBA player to score a triple-double in the postseason, and it was her third this season.
“I think we just wanted it. We've been struggling offensively. We haven't really been hitting shots and tonight we came out ready,” Thomas said. “My teammates hit their shots and I always say without them, none of these triple-doubles are possible.”
It was a must-win game for the Sun, who dropped two games in Las Vegas in the best-of-five series. This isn’t the first time Connecticut has done this. In the first round of the playoffs, it beat Dallas in Game 3, to make it to the semifinals. Then, Chicago was up 2-1 on the Sun, and Connecticut won the next two games to earn a spot in the WNBA Finals.
Sun coach Curt Miller, who has led the team for seven years, said Thomas’ toughness is what’s "remarkable" about her.
“She doesn't know how else to play. So if we are playing, that's how AT plays. And that's what's different,” Miller said. “She's probably the toughest player I've ever coached, but she's the most consistent player in terms of effort that I've ever been around. I know what I'm going to get every single day if that's how she plays and that's what makes her special.”
Thomas caused a headache for the Aces all night, and the team shot just 45% from the field. Aces’ coach Becky Hammon echoed Miller in being impressed with Thomas’ toughness.
“She's a beast. I went to a UFC fight the other night; I would not want to get in the cage with her."
"She is just tough. Tough, tough, tough. Tough, and then a play-maker,” Hammon said. “You know, I think they do a good job of finding her in spots where she can be effective but also she does a nice job of trying to find her teammates, reading defenses constantly.”
Las Vegas still has a 2-1 lead on the series and can win the championship in Game 4 in Connecticut on Sunday. Hammon said it’s important for her team to have a better mental approach to the game.
“I don't know if we thought we were just going to show up and they were going to lay down and hand us the trophy, but we should know better by now. … If there's one thing that this team, if you could encapsulate Connecticut, it's physical, and very resilient.”