September 5, 2022 

After last two wins, the Chicago Sky may have clouded the Sun’s best chance to go to the Finals

Connecticut still searching for answers on offense

With 3:37 left in regulation in a two-point game, Sun head coach Curt Miller decided to take out Jonquel Jones.

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Connecticut’s offensive struggles throughout the Semifinals crept into Game 3 and the team found itself once again searching for answers. The boiling point may have come in the first half when Miller asked them what may or may not have been a rhetorical question.

When Miller took the 2021 MVP out of the closing lineup in Game 3, it was a sign the Sun are now looking at the bottom of the barrel for offense. Courtney Williams replaced Jones and joined Natisha Hiedeman, Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner. According to Positive Residual, that five-person group only had played 23 minutes together since August. Yet, they were on the court in the last three minutes of the game, trying to take down the defending champs.

It went down as anyone would expect it would.

Chicago took control of the series outlasting the Sun 76-72 and finds itself in the driver’s seat heading into Game 4 tomorrow. The Sun’s margin for error is infinitesimal after they dropped the last two games and time is running out. With the short turnaround between Games 3 and 4, Connecticut will need to bring what it did in Game 1 to outlast the second-seeded Sky.

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The Sun were able to upset the Sky in the opening game of the series by being the ones to throw the first punch. Their aggression, hard hedging and stunting the Sky’s secondary actions ultimately propelled them in a 68-63 blood bath that set the tone for the rest of the Semifinals. Since that game, Chicago has responded to every jab thrown at it.

“One thing we have prided ourselves on is playing through adversity,” Sky head coach/general manager James Wade said after Game 3. “I thought we did a good job of it. We responded well to their runs and didn’t have any lulls. Even though it was a defensive, physical battle, I thought we were up for the challenge and we came out victorious.”

The Sun didn’t bring the same level of physicality from Game 1 into Game 2, but it certainly did when they hosted the Sky. In the last minute of the second half, Alyssa Thomas appeared to have stuck her knee out after Candace Parker grabbed a rebound and turned to lead the break.

Physical play like this was going to dictate the rest of the game down low and the Sun, who shot 62.8% around the basket and 53.6% on post-ups, only converted 37.1% of their attempts in the paint against the Sky in Game 3. Between Thomas and the Joneses, the trio made only 33.3% of their shots in the paint. With Williams struggling to find her shot in the playoffs and Connecticut’s lack of backcourt depth, it was imperative for the Sun to get more scoring production out of the front court. They couldn’t fend off the versatile combo of Emma Meesseman and Parker, who finished the game +15 in 25 minutes on the floor in Game 3.

If they repeat this performance, the Sun will be packing for the winter come Tuesday night. However, the WNBA offers a small historical sample size for teams that are in Connecticut’s situation. Crazier things have happened in the league than an opponent erasing a 2-1 series lead (just ask last year’s Sky team about abrupt playoff runs).

Is a comeback likely for the Sun? If benching Jonquel Jones is any indication, probably not. Chicago is simply a better basketball team with talent that fits comfortably with all of the pieces in the puzzle. Connecticut can make this a series dedicated to those who like to witness brute force in all its forms, but Chicago has shown it has an answer. Tomorrow, the Sun will have to prove that they can respond as well.

Written by James Kay

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