Bahamian Jonquel “JJ” Jones and the Connecticut Sun blew an opportunity to pull even with the Washington Mystics for first place in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) standings on Sunday, falling to Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center in L.A., 84-72.
Jones had another strong game with 16 points and 12 rebounds – her league-leading 15th double-double of the season, but the Sun fell apart in the third quarter and couldn’t recover in the fourth. They saw their four-game winning streak snapped and dropped to a 20-9 win-loss record on the season – a game behind the league-leading Mystics (21-8).
The Sparks won for the 11th straight time at home, and are now just a game and a half behind the Sun in the standings (18-10). The top five teams are separated by just three games in the standings.
Jones is averaging 14.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She is the only athlete in the league averaging a double-double, and is once again leading the league in rebounds.
On Sunday, led by Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray, the Sparks used a 12-2 run at the end of the third quarter to pull away from the Sun. They opened a three-point halftime advantage (42-39) by double digits at the end of the third (65-52). The Sparks increased their lead to 15 early in the fourth, and the Sun got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Riquna Williams paced the Sparks with a game-high 21 points. Ogwumike had 16, eight rebounds and four steals, and Parker chipped in with 13 points and five assists. Gray was the only other player in double figures for them. She had a dozen points and added six assists and five rebounds.
Ogwumike totaled 66 points and 33 rebounds in three games against the Sun this season.
The Sun was led by Courtney Williams with 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. Jones helped out with 16, and Shekinna Stricklen added a dozen. Point guard Jasmine Williams was the only other player in double figures for them with 10. She added five assists.
The Sun had a six-point lead early, but the Sparks battled back in the second quarter and surged ahead at the half. After that 12-2 in the third quarter, the Sun never got to within striking distance again.
With five games remaining in the season, the Sun still have a realistic shot at the top overall record in the WNBA going into the playoffs. They have already clinched a playoff spot and will travel to Seattle, Washington, to face the defending champions Seattle Storm in their next game on Tuesday. They will end their three-game road trip on Friday when they travel to New York to take on the New York Liberty, and then will conclude the season with two of their final three games at home.
On Friday, Alyssa Thomas had a game-high 27 points and Courtney Williams added 24 to help the Sun rally from 11 down in the third quarter and defeat the Western Conference-leading Las Vegas Aces. That win was the Sun’s 11th in 13 games.
As for Jones, she is 12th in the league in scoring, and is leading the league in rebounds for the second time in her four-year career. Her season high of 22 rebounds earlier in the year against the Sparks is a league high for rebounds in a single game this year. Jones also leads the league in blocks at 2.2 per game and is second in fantasy points per game at 38. Natasha Howard of the Storm leads the way at 40.3.
Jones is averaging a career-high in minutes at 29.8 per game but is having the worst shooting performance of her career at just 44.6 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from distance. This is the only year in her career in which she is shooting less than 50 percent from the floor. Jones is set to lead the league in rebounds again, having set a WNBA record with 403 total rebounds in 2017.