Connecticut Sun lose their touch inside, drop Game 3 of WNBA semifinals to Chicago Sky

·5 min read

Connecticut Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller repeatedly said he wanted his team to make things “messy” in Game 3 of its WNBA semifinal series against the Chicago Sky.

The Sun got the type of physical, defensive contest they wanted but still couldn’t pull out a victory, falling 76-72 to the Sky on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Chicago leads the series, 2-1.

“We got the game the way that we truly believe we can be successful,” Miller said. “Our defensive energy and effort was unwavering tonight, even when they made some plays. ... Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the finish line, but our players have to leave (with) confidence that we can make games against Chicago messy and the type of style that we want and desire to have.”

Game 4 of the best-of-five series will be played at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun missed easy shots in the paint all afternoon, going just 18 of 48 on attempts in that area of the floor. Connecticut shot 36.8% from the field and 41.7% from deep, while Chicago was 37.1% from the field and 24% on 3-point attempts.

“They’re tall, they’re big, they’re long, but I think we focused too much on getting the foul instead of just going up through them and finishing,” Sun guard DeWanna Bonner said. “So we have to do a better job if we want to beat Chicago [with] finishing.”

The Sun also struggled to take care of the ball. They committed 17 turnovers, which led to 17 points for the Sky.

Candace Parker continued her stellar play in the series, leading the Sky with 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. Kahleah Copper had 15 points and five rebounds, Emma Meeseeman recorded 13 points, six assists and five steals, and Courtney Vandersloot contributed 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“We know Connecticut is a physical team,” Parker said. “We know that we have our work cut out, and we knew Game 3 was going to be a grind. And that’s what we try to do. We try to evolve and adjust to the circumstances and adjust to the game, and I think that we were able to do that. We came out on top just because we were able to adjust to how physical the game was and what we needed to do.”

Connecticut entered the contest in desperate need of more production from its guards. Bonner led Connecticut with 18 points and 11 rebounds, also adding four assists and three steals. Natisha Hiedeman scored 14 points and Courtney Williams had 12.

“I felt like last game, Game 2, they embarrassed us,” Bonner said. “It was almost like a video. They were moving; we were behind in backdoors. ... We just wanted to play better. We know we can play better. We know we’re a better group than that, so nothing to prove to anybody. It was just more so to prove to ourselves that we can play better.”

However, that didn’t make up for the lack of scoring production from starting forwards Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas, who each contributed six points, combining to shoot 6 of 22 (27.3%). Thomas also had 13 rebounds and seven assists, while Jones grabbed eight boards. Fellow forward Brionna Jones had 12 points and three rebounds off the bench.

The Sun struggled on offense through the first two quarters, particularly in the paint, where they normally thrive. They made just 8 of 26 shots in that area of the floor, missing a lot of easy looks at the rim. Connecticut shot just 33.3% from the field in the first half, but was 57.1% from deep. The Sky made 38.9% of its shots from the field and was only 28.6% on 3-pointers.

Hiedeman, Williams and Bonner all stepped up in the first half as they combined for 27 points. That trio led the way on a 13-4 run for Connecticut in the second quarter to take a six-point lead and force a Chicago timeout. But the Sky went on an 8-0 run from there and entered halftime up 40-38.

Chicago went on another key run to open the third quarter. The Sky outscored the Sun 7-2 out of the break to take a 47-40 lead and force a timeout with just under seven minutes left in the quarter.

“C’mon y’all, we good. We good!” Jonquel Jones shouted encouragingly from the bench after DiJonai Carrington missed two free throws shortly after. At that point, Chicago again was up seven, tied for its largest lead of the game midway through the third. The Sun went on a 9-2 run from there to tie the score at 51-51.

The start of the fourth quarter was back and forth, but with a little over six minutes left, Kahleah Copper hit a 3-pointer to give Chicago a 66-64 lead. That score would hold for nearly four minutes as both teams went scoreless in a defensive fist fight.

With under 2 1/2 minutes left, Meesseman hit a jumper to give Chicago a four-point advantage. The Sky wouldn’t relinquish their lead from there. Connecticut got the game within two points twice, off a Williams midrange jumper and later off two free throws from Bonner but couldn’t do enough to pull out the win in crunch time.

The series now comes down to a decisive Game 4 on Tuesday night. It’s a must-win for the Sun; if they drop the contest, their season and championship aspirations will be over.

“They won tonight in our style of game,” Miller said, “but I’m confident if we can get those games like that, that we can have success.”