On a night when the Connecticut Sun saw the return of forward Alyssa Thomas from an Achilles injury, getting a franchise-record 13th consecutive victory on Wednesday was icing on the cake for the WNBA's top team.
Last season, she led the Sun in rebounding, assists and steals, and she was second in scoring as Connecticut fell in the WNBA semifinals. But she was injured playing overseas in the Czech Republic in the offseason and had surgery in January.
While the odds seemed against her playing in the WNBA this season, the Sun kept her on the roster just in case she was able to return. And return she did, playing 16 minutes, 37 seconds on Wednesday and going 3-of-8 from the field for six points with three rebounds.
"I've been watching this team fight and compete all season," Thomas said of the Sun, 25-6 and the top seed in the WNBA playoffs. "And I've just been waiting to get out there with them. A lot of hard work, a lot of bad days, a lot of good days. But I had great support. It was a grind, definitely one of the toughest things I've ever been through.
"I've been visualizing this day for a while. I was anxious, excited, just a ball of energy. This team is firing on all engines, and I just want to come in and make it that much easier for them."
Sun coach Curt Miller often has praised Thomas as one of the top defensive players in the league, as she can guard every position. After watching her in action Wednesday, he said once she gets more confidence, she will return to that level for what is already the league's best defensive team. And Thomas' prowess also will be felt on offense.
"Right now, there's still some rust," Miller said of Thomas, who is the longest-tenured player on the team and has spent her entire career with Connecticut after being drafted No. 4 out of Maryland in 2014. "They came with some congestion and gave her some trouble; you could see she lost her balance a few times. But she's such a smart player and passer.
"Anyone who comes back off a serious injury, there's a psychological factor. She has to have confidence and believe she's healthy because physicality is so important for her. I was going to be happy for her if she just got back for her international season. But she got back to benefit all of us. It's a credit to how hard Alyssa works."