September 8, 2022
‘Courtney Williams was herself’
How Courtney Williams got her groove back to help the Sun force Game 5
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Courtney Williams’ Tuesday night started with a great outfit – a black collared shirt with a faint floral pattern, tailored black pants with a snake skin texture, and some of her signature pieces, like her chain with her number ‘10’ pendant.
Her night ended with her best offensive outing in weeks – 19 points on 9-for-14 from the field, four assists, four rebounds, and only one turnover in a dominant 104-80 Connecticut Sun win against the Chicago Sky, and the opportunity to play in a deciding Game 5 to go back to the WNBA Finals.
It was Williams’ best game all postseason, and what the Sun have desperately needed out of their offense, in a win-or-go-home game.
“Well, I put on an outfit. They tell me when I put that on it makes me play better,” Williams said. “Look good, feel good, play good. You know the vibes.”
Bri Jones, who was sitting next to Williams during the postgame press conference, laughed before the microphone picked up her whisper, “It’s true.”
From Connecticut coach Curt Miller’s perspective, he said Williams set the tone with her constant movement off the ball – something Miller said would be key to improving the team’s spacing and overall offensive efficiency before the game.
“Courtney was incredibly active without the ball tonight. She was aggressive looking for what she does” Miller said. “That’s the Courtney Williams that WNBA fans and us have come to appreciate through the years, and she made a lot of that happen by just playing and taking what the defense gave us.”
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Williams got the Sun started from the first possession, running through an Alyssa Thomas screen to get a step on Courtney Vandersloot, and driving to the rim for a layup before Chicago had a chance to set up its defense.
The 2-0 Sun lead turned into an 8-point lead at the first time out and turned into a 16-point advantage a little more than halfway through the first quarter. It was the type of early run that viewers were used to seeing from Chicago when these two teams matched up this season.
Williams was 1-for-4 in the first quarter, but her activity and aggressiveness in the full 10 minutes helped open up opportunities for others on the floor, like Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones in the paint, who combined for 16 of the Sun’s 30 points at the end of the first period.
With five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Sky were starting to recover after falling behind, and were trading short runs with the Sun.
After Julie Allemand hit a jump shot to bring the Sky within eight points, Williams took a handoff from Jonquel Jones, sped around the screen and raced Emma Meeseman to her spot on the right elbow. Williams elevated and sunk the running floater to bring the lead back to double digits.
On the next possession, Jones was forced into a step-back three over Meesseman to beat the shot clock. She missed, but Williams darted in from the far corner and caught the rebound as it bounced over Kahleah Copper. She took the ball out to the three-point line to reset, then drilled a three while Chicago tried to scramble back on defense.
Connecticut went on to finish the quarter on a 15-6 run, going into halftime up 17 points. Chicago never cut the lead back to single digits. It was exactly the vintage Courtney Williams spark the Sun have been looking for all series.
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She may be one of the last mid-range artists, but Williams’ jumper had been cold, and she was shooting just 31 percent in the playoffs before Tuesday. But with the season on the line, she took a different approach, using her quickness and leaping ability to attack the rim.
Through the first three games of the series, Williams made four shots on six attempts inside the restricted area. On Tuesday, she made five of six attempts at the rim.
“Courtney was herself tonight,” Miller said.
Williams was far from the only contributor on a night when the Sun scored a franchise playoff record 104 points, shooting 57 percent from the field, and dropping a league playoff record 66 points in the paint. But her resurgence symbolized the play of a Sun offense that seemed to finally put the puzzle pieces together just in time.
The Sun had stressed “messy” basketball throughout the entire semifinals series, but when it came down to win or go home, they took a page out of the Sky’s playbook. They cut and moved on offense, and in the third quarter, Williams capitalized on every open lane she could find. She was 5-for-5 from the floor for 10 points in just six and a half minutes in the third quarter. All her shots came from cuts to the rim.
“This series I’ve kind of been the sacrificial lamb. They just haven’t been guarding me. So instead of taking those threes and those long jumpers, go and get layups,” Williams said.
Now the Sun and the Sky are in the same position. Win and they go to the Finals to face the Las Vegas Aces. Lose and they go home. As much as the Sun’s identity revolves around gritty defense, their offense is at its best when they’re playing like themselves and having fun. They’ll need to keep the good vibes going to steal another game in Chicago.
“Sometimes when you get to playoffs, everyone’s just so uptight. You just get outside of yourself because it’s a different type of, I guess, urgency. But we play our best basketball when we’re having fun,” Williams said. “We jumping around. We cheering each other on. I think that’s when we play our best basketball.”