Connecticut Sun 2021 Year in Review
Uncasville, CT - On Sunday, Sept. 19 the Connecticut Sun (26-6) concluded the 2021 regular season in record-breaking fashion. The Sun defeated the Atlanta Dream 84-64 and topped it off by extending their win streak to 14-straight. Not only did the team set the franchise record for consecutive wins, they set the league record for longest win streak to end a season. The Sun's previous record was 12-straight set during the 2006 season and the league's previous end-of-season best was 10 set by the 2017 New York Liberty.
The accolades for Connecticut did not stop there. The Sun set a new franchise record for fewest losses in a season which translated to the best winning percentage (.8125) in history. Furthermore, the team's 26 wins tied the organization's record for most wins in a season (set in '05 & '06). The Sun's historic record is largely attributed to the home court advantage in Mohegan Sun Arena. Connecticut posted a franchise and league best, 15-1 record at home. In 2019, the Sun finished 15-2 at home, tying Los Angeles for the best home record in the league that year.
Connecticut's offensive success this season stemmed from the team's defensive efforts. The Sun held their opponents to less than 70 points in a total of 18 regular season contests and one postseason contest and had the number one overall defensive rating (91.7). Additionally, all five of the Sun's starters held the top five spots in individual defensive win shares.
Straight to the Semis
On Aug. 24, the Sun defeated the Las Vegas Aces and secured a spot in the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Two weeks later a win over Dallas (9/7) earned Connecticut a single bye and one game after that the Sun defeated the Sparks (9/9) for a double bye, advancing to the semifinals for the third year in a row. In the last game of the three-game road trip, Connecticut pulled out a 76-67 victory over the Phoenix Mercury (9/11) and solidified the No. 1 seed for the 2021 WNBA Playoffs.
During the Sun's 19-year history the team has advanced to the postseason 14 times. The Sun faced the Chicago Sky in the best-of-five semifinals series, but were ultimately defeated 3-1. Throughout Connecticut Sun history, the team has advanced to the WNBA finals on three occasions, including the most recent in 2019 ('04, '05, '19).
2021 WNBA Commissioner's Cup
The Sun posted a 9-1 record in Commissioner's Cup games and secured the top spot in the Eastern Conference to compete in the first-ever WNBA Commissioner's Cup. Connecticut was defeated by the Seattle Storm (79-57) on Aug. 12 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ.
WNBA Season Awards
Most Valuable Player
Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones was named the 2021 Kia WNBA Most Valuable Player. This is the first WNBA Most Valuable Award for Jones, who was the 2018 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year and 2017 WNBA Most Improved Player. In her fifth WNBA season, Jones averaged 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.26 blocked shots and 1.26 steals in 31.7 minutes in 27 games. The 6-6 forward led the WNBA in rebounding and defensive rebounding (8.7 drpg), ranked fourth in scoring and 10th in blocks. Her rebounding efforts secured Jones her third Peak Performer award for rebounding. Her efficiency rating of 25.4 was second only to Brittney Griner (26.0). Jones scored at least 20 points in 12 of 27 games, including a career-high 31 points vs. the New York Liberty on June 5 and again at Washington on Aug. 31. She also grabbed a career-best 17 rebounds at New York on July 11. Jones finished the season with 18 double-doubles (points-rebounds). Jones is only the second player in Connecticut Sun franchise history to win this award. The first to achieve this was Tina Charles in 2012.
Most Improved Player
Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones was named the 2021 Kia WNBA Most Improved Player. A five-year WNBA veteran, Jones won the Most Improved Player Award for the first time and joins Jonquel Jones (2017), Kelsey Bone (2015) and Wendy Palmer (2004) as players to earn the honor with the Sun. Jones averaged career highs of 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 30.6 minutes while starting all 32 games for the Sun this season. Her previous career highs in each of those categories were all set with the Sun in 2020, when she averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 26.1 minutes in 21 games. Jones bested career-highs multiple times throughout the season. She finished the year with a career-high 34 points set against Indiana on July 1 and a career-high 15 rebounds recorded against Los Angeles on Aug. 28. The 6-3 forward also posted five double-doubles throughout the season.
Coach of the Year
Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller was named the 2021 WNBA Coach of the Year. He becomes the sixth coach in the 25-year history of the league to win the award multiple times, joining three-time winners Van Chancellor, Cheryl Reeve and Mike Thibault, and two-time winners Dan Hughes and Bill Laimbeer. Miller, finished his sixth season as a WNBA head coach and guided the Sun to the top spot in the league with a 26-6 overall record and the No. 1 seed in the WNBA Playoffs 2021 presented by Google. The Sun's overall winning percentage (.813) in 2021, propelled by a franchise-record 14-game winning streak to close the regular season, is the best mark in franchise history. Connecticut's 14-straight wins from July 9 through August 19 also ranks as the fourth longest streak in league history. Additionally, the Sun led the league in point differential (9.8 ppg). Miller is the second coach in Connecticut Sun history to receive this award multiple times. Thibault won this award with Connecticut in 2006 and 2008.
B. Jones, J. Jones and Miller were also named Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.
WNBA All-Defensive Teams
The WNBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams were announced on Sunday, Sept. 26 and of the 10 selected, four Connecticut Sun players received the honor. J. Jones and Briann January were named to the All-Defensive First Team while Jasmine Thomas and B. Jones received second team honors. January and J. Jones, were named alongside Brianna Turner, Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Sykes. In addition to Thomas and B. Jones, the second team included Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner and Ariel Atkins.
Adding up the Awards
During the 2021 regular season, Connecticut had seven Player of the Week honors, including a three-peat in August. DeWanna Bonner earned one, B. Jones collected two and J. Jones added four of her own. J. Jones was also named Player of the Month for the months of May, August and September. Head Coach Curt Miller was named Coach of the Month for August and September as he coached the team to back-to-back undefeated months, finishing 7-0 and 5-0, respectively.
Strong first-half performances by B. Jones, J. Jones and Bonner helped them earn a trip to the 2021 WNBA All-Star game. The three Sun forwards helped lead the WNBA All-Star team to a 93-85 victory over the U.S. Olympic team. J. Jones came in second place in the half-time Mountain Dew 3-point contest behind Allie Quigley.
Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas was named the June WNBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by State Farm® recipient for her ongoing efforts and dedication to positively impacting the lives of youth and focusing on serving and shining a light on health disparities in underserved Black and Brown communities.
Thomas collaborated with Sharing Shoes, a teen-inspired charity to collect new and gently-worn basketball shoes for underserved athletes and provide young athletes with a chance to play basketball. Through her work with Sharing Shoes, Thomas has inspired her fellow WNBA colleagues, teams and players to pledge donations to the Sharing Shoe cause.
Additionally, as her mother is a breast cancer survivor, Thomas has an immense personal connection to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and helping combat all forms of cancer. Thomas is passionate about shining a light on the health disparities in the Black and Brown communities, specifically around prevention, detection, and treatment surrounding cancer diagnosis and continuing to raise money for cancer research.
Thomas was awarded the first annual Gladys Tantaquidgeon award by the Mohegan Tribe. The recipient embodies the qualities of Gladys Tantaquidgeon in so far as she: brings positive energy and good spirits to her team, demonstrates an optimistic world view, is a champion of social justice, approaches life with character and integrity and inspires and motivates good works in others.
The competition for the Connecticut Sun continues overseas. Follow your favorite players as they compete in various leagues across the world.
Alyssa Thomas-USK Praha (Czech Republic)
Brionna Jones-USK Praha (Czech Republic)
Jonquel Jones-UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)
Briann January-Sopron Basket (Hungary)
Jasmine Thomas- Fenerbahce (Turkey)
Natisha Hiedeman-Nadezhda (Russia)
Kaila Charles-Dynamo Novosibirsk (Russia)
DiJonai Carrington-Elizur Tel Aviz (Israel)
Stephanie Jones-Gorzow (Poland)
Beatrice Mompremier- Uni Gyor (Hungary)
DeWanna Bonner-Cukurova (Turkey)
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