The Connecticut Sun are heading back to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. Late on Wednesday night, they took control of Game 3 and pulled away for a 73-58 win over the Dallas Wings. Using some stout defense, they held the Wings to just 24 points in the second half and took the series, 2-1.
Now, the Sun will get ready for another postseason showdown with the Chicago Sky. They beat the Sky in the second round in 2020, but lost to them in the semifinals last season. During the regular season, they were 0-4 against the Sky, though most of those games were quite competitive.
(3) Connecticut Sun def. (6) Dallas Wings, 2-1
- Game 1:
- Game 2:
- Game 3:
Players to watch
Sun: Jonquel Jones
The reigning MVP leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and shooting at 51.3% from the field, while also leading in rebounding with 8.6 boards per game (fourth best in the league). Jones is nothing if not consistent. The 6-foot-6 forward has scored in double figures every game this season except for six of them, and has also registered 12 double-doubles. Her stats might be down compared to last season, but that's not unusual when she has AP Sixth Woman of the Year Brionna Jones by her side, and a better supporting cast with players such as Courtney Williams -- who spent two years with the Atlanta Dream before returning to Connecticut.
Wings: Marina Mabrey
With Ogunbowale, the team's leading scorer, sitting out afterthe Wings have had to figure out who will step up offensively. Mabrey has certainly done a good job of that. The 5-foot-11 guard has scored in double figures in the last seven games, including a career-high 31 points when the Wings officially clinched their playoff berth with a 86-77 win over the New York Liberty on Aug. 8. She has also proven she can be successful against the Sun, as she registered 20 points against them on May 24 while shooting at 60% from the field and going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Three keys to the series
1. Regular season wins mean nothing
It's easy to look at the fact that the Wings won two out of three matches, but it's important to remember when exactly those happened. The first one, an 85-77 result, came just two days afterin a victory against the Indiana Fever on May 22. Connecticut regrouped and defeated Dallas 99-68 on May 26.
The second victory for Dallas, an 82-71 result, came in the middle of a slump for Connecticut in late June/early July in which the Sun lost four out of six games. While this does not take away anything from the Wings' success, Ogunbowale was a major contributor in that last win with 20 points. With that being said...
2. Wings are struggling with injuries, but could still win without Ogunbowale
Yes, it's going to be hard to do without Ogubowale's leadership and especially her 19.7 points per game, which is the fourth best in the league. However, the Wings have shown they can manage without her. She missed two games at the beginning of August due to an ankle injury. In her absence, the Wings registered wins over the defending champion Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces, which are the two teams leading the Eastern and Western conferences. Not a small feat, as the Sun has not been able to get a win against the Sky this year.
Dallas has gone 2-2 since the Fever game in which Ogunbowale suffered her hip injury, but if their last result is any indication of how they will perform in the playoffs, they will certainly put on a show.
The Wings wrapped up their regular season with a solid 116-88 road victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Aug. 14. The team as a whole shot at an impressive 65.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc with 11 3-pointers made. Mabrey owned five of those 3-pointers and finished the night with 27 points on 76.9 percent shooting. A great night for her, but it truly was a team effort as four other Wings scored in double digits.
Dallas has shown offensive depth this season with seven players averaging at least 8.0 per game, but three of those players have recently dealt with injuries. Ogunbowale is currently out, Satou Sabally has been out since July with an ankle injury, and Isabelle Harrison missed the Sparks game because of a shoulder injury.
A solid offensive effort will be very important against Connecticut because the Sun are the second-best defensive team in the WNBA, holding opponents to an average of 77.8 points through 36 games. Both the Sun and the Wings are in the top five in the league in points per game, averaging 85.8 and 82.9 points per game, respectively.
3. The Sun have momentum
Connecticut won 11 of its last 14 regular season games. The Sun have been solid all season, despite losing Thomas -- their starting point guard and a solid perimeter defender -- just six games in. They signed veteran Bria Hartley in July, but unfortunately, she suffered a season-ending ACL injury shortly after.
The team also dealt with COVID-19 issues as Jonquel Jones, head coach Curt Miller and assistant Brandi Poole had to miss some games. In addition to that, Miller took some time off when his mother passed away. Nevertheless, the Sun have been resilient and once again have the potential to make a run in the playoffs.
Their momentum doesn't just involve this year. According to Basketball Reference, the Sun's 55.8 winning percentage through the last 24 years is second best in the WNBA. The only franchise with a better percentage is the Sparks, a team that is currently down but has picked up three championships. This means that Connecticut is the best team to not have a championship trophy.
Last year, the team made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to the Sky. Interestingly enough, if Connecticut wins the series against Dallas, the Suns could be taking on Chicago in the second round (if the).
The Wings have shown they can adjust when missing key players and should not be completely ruled out. With that being said, the Sun are coming in hot and are going to be a very difficult challenge. Pick: Sun in 2