Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas, who was forced out of Tuesday's loss with a shoulder injury, returned Thursday to start Game 3 of the Sun's semifinal series and led her team to a 77-68 victory over the Las Vegas Aces in Bradenton, Florida.
The Sun are up 2-1 in the best-of-five series, a win away from returning to the WNBA finals for the second year in a row.
Thomas had 23 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with 12 rebounds and 4 assists. She played almost 39 minutes.
"It's about my team, it's about this season and what we're trying to accomplish," Thomas said. "I'm just doing me. I'm a tough person, I can handle a lot. I know what I'm capable of."
Thomas, the Sun's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder during the regular season, has long dealt with a partially torn labrum in her right shoulder. She had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the Sun's 87-62 Game 1 victory Sunday.
But Thomas had to leave Tuesday's game after hurting her shoulder at the 5:05 mark in the first quarter of the Sun's 83-75 loss.
Coach Curt Miller said Wednesday he wasn't sure if Thomas would be able to return. But when an MRI showed no further damage to the shoulder, it was about pain management for Thomas, and she came back to play.
"I've known AT a long time, so I knew what Alyssa we were going to get today," said Sun teammate Brionna Jones, who also played one season at Maryland with Thomas. "A lot of passion, a lot of heart, a lot of effort. From the tip, she was herself."