Back on their home court, Connecticut Sun look to take control of WNBA semifinal series in Game 3 vs. Chicago Sky

·4 min read

Between the first and second rounds of the WNBA playoffs the Connecticut Sun spent nearly two weeks on the road. First they flew to Dallas for an elimination game against the Wings in the first round on Aug. 24. They went straight to Chicago from there and stayed in the Windy City for the first two contests of the semifinals.

The Sun are finally back on their home court at Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday for Game 3 of the best-of-five series with the Sky, currently tied 1-1. The game will tip at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.

“To be able to steal one on the road like that, I think that’s huge. That was huge for us,” guard Courtney Williams said. “Now to be back in our regular routine, sleeping in our beds, eating where we normally eat, practicing where we normally practice, I think it’s gonna be a game changer.”

Connecticut took Game 1, 68-63, to open the series last Sunday before falling to Chicago, 77-85, in Game 2 on Wednesday.

The winner of Game 3 went on to advance to the finals in this same semifinal series a season ago. The same was true with Connecticut’s last appearance in the finals against the Washington Mystics in 2019. The franchise is still chasing its first championship, while Chicago looks to repeat its 2021 title.

“It’s a huge game, opportunity for us.” Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “We understand what Game 3s look like around our league.”

Miller believes play in the paint is going to define the outcome of the series. Limiting the Sky to 26 points in the paint, far below their regular-season average of 42.1, was a key factor in the Game 1 win. The Sky were carried by a 26-18 scoring edge in the paint in the first half of Game 2, at which point they were already in full control with a 47-32 lead. Entering Game 3 Miller and his players have emphasized the importance of Connecticut making things “messy” on defense to limit Chicago’s ball movement and actions, such as backdoor cuts.

“I think it’s our aggressive(ness) and intensity defensively,” Brionna Jones said. “The first game we were definitely scrambling around more and helping each other on the back side, so I think in the next game we definitely have to get back to that a little bit more. And then we have to put a few more shots in so they’re taking the ball up and we can set up our defense. I feel like we missed some and they were running at us and we never really got the chance to set up our defense when we wanted to every time.”

Candace Parker has been sensational through the first two games, averaging 20.5 points, 11 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 4.5 blocks and 2.5 steals to set the tone for Chicago. The Sun will need to find some way to limit her on both ends of the floor.

“Ultimately, we gotta compete with her,” Miller said. “As we all talk in both locker rooms, like this is the time where everybody has an opportunity to take this step up. And there’s another level, there always is with great teams, and both teams are seeking that next level. Candace has found it in her individual game.”

As much as defense will be key for the Sun, they’ll need to improve offensively to go on scoring runs and control the game. Connecticut has struggled to knock down open looks, shooting just 41.4% from the floor through the series, and was thrown off by Chicago’s physicality on defense with ball screens, hedges and traps last game. Williams improving her play will be a crucial to that effort as she’s made just 6 of 22 (27.3%) shots from the field for 12 total points in the series.

But ultimately it can’t fall on just one player. The Sun will need to collectively step up on Sunday if they want a shot at knocking out the reigning champs.

”There’s definitely another level that we can bring, especially after our performance last game,” Jones said. “We’re gonna have to come out of ourselves a little bit, you know, just communicating wise, rotation wise and just bring that extra effort. I feel like every loose ball has gotta be ours. Those little things make a difference between championship teams and the other teams.”