The Suns won the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history on Thursday Las Vegas Aces 105-76 in Game 3 of the best-of-five series after losing the first two games on the famous strip. If anyone thought the sun would roll in for an Aces sweep … no one who follows the WNBA thought so. It is not the personification of Surya.
They lost a close Game 1 on Sunday and a not-so-close Game 2 on Tuesday at Michelop Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. But back home in front of their fans at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Suns mustered the mojo they needed to force Game 4, this Sunday here in Connecticut (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“If you can connect Connecticut, it’s physical and very resilient,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said of Sun. “They kind of have a fighting spirit, and we didn’t match up tonight in any way. They kicked our ass all the way.”
Of Thomas, who finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, Hammon said, “She’s a beast. I went to a UFC fight the other night; I didn’t want to get in the cage with her. She’s tough. Tough, tough, tough. Then a playmaker.”
The 6-foot-2 Thomas, 30, was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft out of Maryland, which led to the Women’s Final Four her senior year.
Thomas is a tough — if not impossible — match up against anyone else in the WNBA. Her long-standing shoulder injuries (torn labrums in both that were not surgically repaired) prevent her from making a true jump shot, but that doesn’t matter. Thomas finds her own ways and brings the ball into the hoop, she is so crafty and strong that it is difficult to stop her.
Thomas is essentially a point guard, with how much he handles the ball and creates chances for his teammates. And the rebound? As Hamman said, there’s nothing about Thomas that makes you think you’re going to overpower or drive her away.
“What’s remarkable is that it’s every day. She doesn’t know how else to play,” Suns coach Kurt Miller said of Thomas’ energy. “He’s probably the hardest player I’ve coached, but he’s the most consistent player I’ve ever had in terms of effort.”
The Suns lacked consistency in some respects in the first two games of the finals, leaving them in a win-or-go-home situation. But they faced it in the first round to go Dallas A best of three series and in the semifinals and when they beat the defending champions Chicago Twice on Sky homecourt, including the deciding Game 5.
On Thursday, the Aces got off to a 9-2 start, but that was the extent of their control of the game. As if a switch had been flipped, the Suns’ energy level rose and they led 34-19 after the first quarter. By game’s end, all Suns starters had scored in double figures, led by the 2021 MVP. Jonqual Jones with 20 points.
But the star of the night was Thomas, her third triple-double of the season, a WNBA record. There are 19 triple-doubles in WNBA history — three in the playoffs, the others by Chicago. Courtney Vandersloot and Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes — but they’re becoming more rare than they used to be. Eight of the 19 have come this season and two came last season.
It reflects a more volatile game, which the WNBA sees as the NBA. In Thomas’ case, it’s about his ability to play as a true post, but also as someone who can make things happen for himself or his teammates.
On a night when the sun was over, Thomas was led to continue it.
“For me, I approached the game like I would approach any other game,” Thomas said. “I think that’s what we want. We’ve been battling aggressively. We haven’t really been hitting shots and we came out ready tonight.”