Alyssa Thomas helps Sun defeat Storm in the final for Sue Bird in Connecticut.

Thursday night’s game between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm looked like one of the games of the week on paper, and it was more than billed. The Sun struggled from an early double-digit deficit and stayed all the way to win 88-83 to seal a place in the playoffs.

Alyssa Thomas led the way with 19 points, five rebounds and 11 assists in 8 of 11 from the field, as the Sun extended its winning streak to four games and moved to 6-1 since the All-Star break. In addition to the post-season ticket punch for the sixth consecutive season, The Sun expanded its third-place lead to two full games.

Here are some key points from the game:

Sun’s win has huge repercussions in the play-off

The Sun and Storm have been battling for third place in the rankings for over a month, with spot currencies trading multiple times along the way. With the All-Star break approaching, the storm was in control, but the Sun has been on a mission since play resumed — a mission that continued Thursday with a comeback win.

Two winners in a row and six of seven since the break, Sun improved to 20-9. More important than a play-off – which was a foregone conclusion at one point in the next few matches – the Sun cemented their third-place lead. Had Storm had won this match, the two teams would have been tied; Instead, the Sun is now two games ahead in the race for third place and owns the tiebreaker between the two teams.

With only seven matches left, the sun will really have to break down to drop below three. However, there is no time for the sun to relax, as they still have a chance to earn the second seed. They are only half a game behind the second-placed Las Vegas Aces and 1.5 games behind Chicago Sky, with two games remaining against the defending champions.

As for Storm, this loss was a huge blow to their seeding hopes. While they will do qualifying, fourth place will now likely be their ceiling, and even that is not a guarantee. They are linked to the Washington Mystics at the age of 18-11 and travel to the nation’s capital for a massive showdown against them this weekend. Not only will these two games determine the tiebreak between Storm and Mystics, but perhaps who will finish fourth and earn the home court advantage in the first round.

Thomas continues to play stellar

Earlier this month, Alyssa Thomas became the first player in Sun franchise history to score a triple-double when she scored 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Minnesota Links. Thomas didn’t get another game on Thursday, but she did play one of the best matches of the season.

They finished with 19 points, five rebounds and 11 assists in 8 of 11 from the field, and were particularly impressive in the second and third quarters as Sun erased Storm’s double-digit lead and built an advantage of their own. In the final minutes, she also made three vital defensive games in a row. At first a steal, then twice in a row to force Brian Stewart to skip fouls.

This acquisition, where he chased Thomas Stewart to the ground, stood her in the paint and had a tough contest, was particularly impressive.

Since the All-Star break, she’s averaged 12.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game, which is good for fifth in rebounds, first in assists and third in steals in the league during that period. Sun was 6-1 in those games and it was +77 with Thomas on the ground.

This is Thomas the Sun who was missing last season in the playoffs as she bravely came back early from a torn Achilles tendon but was never completely the same. Her defense and ability to push the pace and make plays for others is vital to Sun’s success, as we’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Baird says goodbye to Connecticut

early on Thursday, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced That in honor of her last regular season appearance in the state, July 28 was Sue Bird Day. The Sun also honored Bird with a pre-match party and presented her with a bottle of wine from 2002, the year she made her WNBA debut.

When Bird started the game with three pointers on the first possession and earned eight points at the end of the first quarter, it looked like the end of a tale was in store. Unfortunately, while Bird played well and finished with 14 points and seven assists, Storm couldn’t take the win.

However, this was a huge farewell to the legendary goalkeeper who will be retiring at the end of the season. Although a native of New York, she came to prominence on the national stage at UConn, being named AP Player of the Year in 2022, helping the Huskies win two National Championships and playing a key role in transforming the show into the dynasty they have become.

“It’s impossible for me to dream of sitting here now that I’m going to the University of Connecticut, having had 20 years in a WNBA career, I mean, it’s impossible for me to think about it, so it’s cool,” Bird said after training on Wednesday. “I’m very proud of the things I’ve been able to achieve on the field and start at UConn, right? I always say that’s where the foundation of who I am as a player and as a person has been developed and I’ve been able to build on top of that as I progress in my career.”