September 7, 2022
How Chicago Sky can rally to win Game 5, advance to WNBA Finals
'We just weren't focused'
After countering the Sun’s every move in Game 3 of the semifinals, the Chicago Sky looked like they had solved Connecticut once again. They went 4-0 in the regular season against their east coast foes and had the upper hand after stifling the Sun’s offense for three straight games.
Game 4, however, was a different story.
The Sun came out firing and found the cohesiveness in their halfcourt sets it had been searching for all series. They found holes in the Sky’s defense and outplayed the reigning champs, 104-80, to force a win-or-go home matchup on Sept. 8 at Wintrust Arena. Chicago’s head coach/general manager, James Wade, was calm after the game but knows what he and the coaching staff need from his team in Game 5.
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“We have to clean up some stuff and we’ll be better next game,” Wade said after the game. “There’s a lot of trust in the locker room. I’m sure it’s not how we wanted to play but, at the end of the day, we have to find ways to have that high energy and not rely on having our backs against the wall. It’s a single elimination game now but you would have hoped we would have played like it was one today.”
Whoever wins on Thursday night will play the Las Vegas Aces in this year’s WNBA Finals. Here are three takeaways from last night as both teams aim to be the ones to take on Vegas in the next round.
Chicago won’t get to the Finals getting in their own way
The Sky looked a step slower than the Sun did in Game 4 on both ends of the floor. As a result, the Sun took advantage of this, scoring 23 points off 15 Chicago turnovers while notching 15 second chance points. It ultimately led this series to go back to Chicago for a decisive Game 5.
“There were too many details that we missed,” Allie Quigley, who finished with 10 points, said after the game. “We weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. When we were supposed to do this scheme, we didn’t do that. We missed people behind us and let them go backdoor. We just had too many moments where we weren’t there and ready. We just weren’t focused.”
Chicago was 11th in both opponents second chance points and opponents points off turnovers in the regular season. Those are two areas the Sun generate most of their offense from due to lacking a pure (healthy) point guard. Even on a night where Connecticut seemingly hit every shot in their half court sets, Chicago has to be tighter on its defensive rotations before they host the Sun on Thursday.
The Sun will need another complete performance to take down Chicago
Connecticut stepped up when it needed to the most after getting gut punched in Game 3. After shooting 37.5% in the restricted area in their previous loss to the Sky, the Sun scored a WNBA-record 66 points in the paint in Game 4. Outside of simply executing down low on higher efficiency, there was a different energy to Connecticut from the tip. Much like the Sky did to them in Game 3, the Sun were able to stunt any momentum Chicago started to generate throughout the game.
Curt Miller echoed a similar sentiment after Game 4.
“We felt deflated after Game 3 after we did so well defensively and couldn’t get to the finish line,” Miller said after the game. “So just incredible heart and determination from our players to do what they’re capable of. That’s all them tonight.”
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The question remains: Can the Sun replicate this performance on the road?
Everything came together offensively for Connecticut Tuesday night. Courtney Williams, who tied for a game-high 19 points with her teammate DeWanna Bonner, showed up last night after struggling to find her shot for most of the playoffs. Miller and the coaching staff got 38 points from their bench. More importantly, they held Chicago to 34 points in the paint, which is eight less than their regular season average. As Miller said after the game, the difference between winning and losing is “razor thin.” Their offense will dictate whether they will get extend their championship window this year.
The Sky need more scoring from their bench
Chicago all season has been touted for its deep bench (and rightfully so). The luxury of having Azurá Stevens coming off the bench after she started for the Sky during their championship run is not lost on the coaching staff. Neither is having reigning Spanish League MVP Rebekah Gardner filling in as a backup for Quigley and Kahleah Copper. Both have brought it on the defensive end but Chicago needs more out of them for it to advance to its second straight Finals.
It’s a tough matchup to draw for Stephens and Gardner. The Sun’s biggest strength is their size and physicality in the front court and the officials have mostly swallowed their whistles in this series. Both of had to navigate the “messiness” of Connecticut’s defense (as Miller would put it) and their games centered around finesse have been put to the test. They’re both shooting under 31% in the series and the Sky could use the consistent scoring off the bench they brought all season long.
Another wrinkle that Sky fans have been clamoring for is seeing Dana Evans on the floor in non-blowout situations. She scored 10 points on four-of-five shooting and provided the instant offense she has made a name for herself with. It’s hard to imagine Wade switching his rotations up this late in the season but Evans could be a wild card he could play at the poker table if needed.
“I just want to win,” Evans said. “I’m going to do whatever I need to do whether that’s being a cheerleader on the bench and seeing what we need to do better at halftime or producing in the game. I’m just here to win.”