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WNBA Finals Film Study: The Bahamian Beast

Midway through Connecticut’s Game 2 win over Washington on Tuesday, ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo offered the perfect nickname for Jonquel Jones as she was feasting on rebounds and demolishing Mystics defenders.

The ‘Bahamian Beast’ was on full display in Game 2 as she finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds (including a WNBA Finals record nine offensive boards), three blocks and a plus/minus of plus-25 in 33 minutes. All of those stats were game highs with the exception of minutes played as Jones was limited by foul trouble throughout the game.

Ahead of Sunday’s Game 3, lets look back at Jones’ performance to see how and why she was able to dominate.

Setting The Tone

After Jones attempted only eight shots in all of Game 1, every player or coach associated with the Sun said they had to make a concerted effort to get Jones more touches in Game 2. And they were not lying. The Sun went to Jones on the block on the first possession of the game. And even though she ended up missing the runner across the lane against Elena Delle Donne, it set the tone early that Jones was going to be a focal point of the Sun offense all night long.

Inside / Outside Threat

Jones is one of the top dual threats in the WNBA as she can score effectively inside the paint and outside to the 3-point line. According to Synergy, Jones made the seventh most field goals on post up plays, while also making the 22nd-most 3-pointers of any player in the league and the most among centers. This is all part of the scouting report on Jones, something her defenders must remember at all times.

In the play below, Washington’s LaToya Sanders does what centers instinctively do in transition, which is retreat to the paint. However, Jones trails the play and stops at the 3-point line, gets the pass from Courtney Williams and calmly drains the long-distance shot. Watch the end of the clip and you can see Sanders raise her hand and point to herself, essentially saying “my bad” for not being in the right position against Jones.

Back to the Basket

In addition to having the touch from beyond the arc, Jones did solid work on the block as well. Here are a couple of examples, that not only show off her footwork and touch on the inside, but her patience to recognize where help is coming from and how to handle it.

Here is Jones posted up against Emma Meesseman on the right block. After fighting for position and taking the entry pass, Jones takes a glance toward the paint to see the rest of the Mystics defense, takes one dribble and step toward the paint and sees Aerial Powers come over to help Meesseman. As soon as Jones senses this, she spins baseline and finishes the layup.

Later in the quarter, the Sun go back to Jones on the left block. It begins with Bria Holmes cutting across the lane to clear that half of the court for a two-woman game between Jasmine Thomas and Jones. Once Jones takes the entry pass, Kristi Toliver drops down off Thomas to help Meesseman in the post. Jones is patiently scanning the floor, sees Toliver coming toward her while Thomas flashes over to the left corner. She gives a look to Thomas, which sends Toliver back toward the corner and leaves Jones one-on-one with Meesseman. She then takes two dribbles into the paint, then executes an up-and-under to clear just enough space against Meesseman (who defends this really well) to get the shot up and in.

Crashing the Offensive Boards

We discussed the scouting report on Jones earlier and one item that is definitely near the top is her dominance on the offensive glass. Jones led the WNBA in offensive rebounds during the regular season at 3.3 per game. During Connecticut’s Semifinal series win over Los Angeles, Jones increased her average to 5.0 per game. So when she was held without an offensive rebound in Game 1 of the Finals, it was definitely surprising.

As Sun coach Curt Miller mentioned in his postgame press conference, the Mystics had been the best team all season at limiting Jones on the offensive glass – she averaged 1.7 offensive rebounds in their three regular season matchups. But Jones was hell bent on making sure there wasn’t a zero in that column again during Game 2.

Take a look at these two plays as Jones not only gets herself in position to grab an offensive rebound, but also pushes Washington players under the rim so they have no chance to beat her to the ball.

When Jasmine Thomas takes the shot, both Jones and Sanders are straddling the restricted area semi-circle. As they begin to box each other out, Jones seals Sanders on her back and Sanders ends up below the rim as Jones elevates for the rebound and gets the putback to go.

In addition to the plays that Connecticut was running specifically to get Jones more involved, her ability to makes plays like these for herself are huge for the Sun. Jones finished with a WNBA Finals record nine offensive rebounds, and had 16 of Connecticut’s 27 second-chance points on the night.

Jones opened the fourth quarter on the bench due to foul trouble and watched as the Mystics tied the game with just over eight minutes to play. Once she got back in, she made an immediate impact, grabbing this offensive rebound off a Shekinna Stricken missed three and converted the layup to put the Sun back up. The Mystics never tied or took the lead the rest of the way.

Again on this offensive rebound, Jones bodies Meesseman under the rim, which gives Jones a clear advantage to not only grab the rebound, but get it back up quickly for the layup.

“Tonight I thought we were trying to rebound with our head under the rim, and you don’t get very many defensive rebounds that way,” said Mystics coach Mike Thibault after Game 2. “If you’re pushed under and you’re standing, you’re basically having to reach behind you to rebound. That’s not a good position to be in.”

Of course, Jones’ dominance wasn’t the only headline to come out of Game 2 as Washington star and league MVP Elena Delle Donne exited the game just three-and-a-half minutes into the opening quarter and was unable to return. Thibault credited Delle Donne with helping limit Jones on the offensive glass in Game 1.

“Elena herself is one of the better defensive rebounders in the league,” said Thibault. “You’re not going to hold Jonquel off the whole series but she got zero in that game. If you watch the tape, Elena was almost textbook in her block outs on Jonquel.”

Watch Delle Donne (on the left block) throughout this clip. First, her positioning is great. As the action is happening on the other side of the court, Delle Donne is in the paint to be in help position to prevent a drive, but keeps her head on a swivel to check on Jones and prevent a back cut. As Williams elevates for the shot, Delle Donne turns her back to the shot in order to find Jones and then gets a great box out, sealing Jones on her back and grabbing the rebound.

“When Elena went out, I thought that she did a terrific job in Game 1 on Jonquel on the boards, and that went out the door,” said Thibault. “So we’ve got to do it the hard way.”

With Delle Donne’s status for Game 3 still unknown, it will likely be up to Meesseman and Sanders to deal with Jones once again. Even if Delle Donne is able to play, battling for rebound position with the Bahamian Beast is not going to help her ailing back at all.