The Connecticut Sun entered the fourth quarter of Game 5 of its semifinal series against the Chicago Sky down 11 points on the road. It looked as though this season would end in similar fashion to the last several: coming close but just short of a championship, losing to the same team in the same round for the second consecutive year. Instead the Sun pulled off the improbable.
Following a heated exchange between both teams under the basket, the Sun went on an 18-0 run over the last four minutes to pull out a 72-63 victory, take the series 3-2 and advance to the WNBA finals.
“We believe in each other,” guard Natisha Hiedeman said after the game. “When adversity hit, sometimes we fold — not no more. We’re not folding no more. As y’all saw in the fourth quarter, we picked it right back up and won the game. And now we going to the championship. Job not done yet.”
Connecticut is back in the finals for the first time since 2019 with hopes of winning its first title in franchise history. The Sun face the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces, also looking for their first championship, in a best-of-five series starting on Sunday in Las Vegas. Game 1 is set to tip-off at 3 p.m. on ABC.
“It’s exciting, right. There’ll be a new champion in this league,” Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “I’m just really excited about the challenge. …
“Not many people will pick us against Vegas either. And that’s okay. We’re going to prepare and try to make it a Connecticut Sun style of game.”
The Aces won the regular season series 2-1, but there were pieces missing from both sides in all three matchups. Miller and assistant Brandi Poole were both out with COVID-19 for the first game in Las Vegas on May 31 which the Aces won 89-81. With Miller and Poole back, Connecticut won Game 2, 97-90, two days later, but Las Vegas was without stars Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray for chunks of the fourth quarter due to injuries. In the final meeting in Connecticut on July, the Sun were without Jonquel Jones due to COVID-19 and lost 91-83.
Fast forward to nearly two months later and both teams are playing their best basketball of the season. The Aces knocked out the Seattle Storm, 3-1, in the semifinals. Gray was dominant throughout the series, averaging 25 points, 8.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from deep.
Recently named WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson only put up eight points in the first game but went on to average 30 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over the last three.
The Sun have relied on their defense throughout the playoffs and will look to slow down an Aces team that led the league in scoring in the regular season with 90.4 points per game and has scored at least 97 points in each of its last two contests.
DeWanna Bonner led the Sun throughout their series against the Sky by averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Connecticut has also been leaning heavily on Bonner from a leadership standpoint, as she is the only player to have previously won a title on the roster, back during her time with the Phoenix Mercury. At age 35 Bonner is hungry to add a third championship to her name while her teammates are eager to secure their first, now feeling more confident than ever.
“I think if we stay together anything is possible with this team,” Bonner said. “I’m just so proud of this group, we work so damn hard. But don’t count us out yet. I think some people counted us out, but don’t count us out just yet because we are relentless.”