Jasmine Thomas scored 17 points and Jonquel Jones had a double-double as the visiting Connecticut Sun clinched the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs with a 76-67 victory against the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday night.
Jones had 12 points and 16 rebounds, DeWanna Bonner scored 16 points and Brionna Jones scored 10 as the Sun (24-6) won its league-best 12th straight game. The Sun took a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Las Vegas, against which it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Brittney Griner, returning from a one-game absence for a personal reason, had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Shey Peddy scored 12, Skylar Diggins-Smith had 11 and Brianna Turner had 10 to lead the Mercury (19-11).
Phoenix played without Diana Taurasi, who is sidelined by an ankle injury, and got just five points from its bench as it saw its franchise-best 10-game winning streak end.
Thomas started the third-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer that pushed Connecticut’s lead to nine points. Kia Nurse made a 3-pointer and shortly thereafter added a free throw that pulled Phoenix even at 55. Jonquel Jones made a layup and Bonner added two free throws to give the Sun a 59-55 lead at the end of the period.
Bonner’s two free throws increased the lead to 64-57 and the Mercury didn’t get any closer than five points the rest of the way. The Mercury led by four points four times during the first quarter, but Thomas scored five points during a 9-0 run that gave the Sun a 23-18 lead at the end of the period.
Natisha Hiedeman scored Connecticut’s first five points of the second quarter and Bonner’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 34-23.
The Sun led by 11 points four more times in the quarter before Diggins-Smith made two free throws to cut Connecticut’s lead to 49-43 at halftime.