The Connecticut Sun, still chasing their first WNBA title in franchise history, suffered an untimely setback Sunday in their semifinal series vs. the Chicago Sky, as the defending league champions stole one on the road, 76-72, and took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five showdown.
But Connecticut head coach Curt Miller chose to focus on the positives, despite leaving the defending WNBA champions just one win away from advancing to the finals.
“Our defensive energy and effort was unwavering tonight, even when they made some plays,” said Miller, the 2021 WNBA Coach of the Year. “So, we’re excited again that we got the game [going] in the style of play that we think we can be very successful. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the finish line, but our players have to leave confident that we can make games against Chicago messy and [make them] the type of style that we want and desire to have.”
All-Star forward Candace Parker led four Sky players in double-digit scoring, recording 16 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes, and matching Tamika Catchings for the most double-doubles in the playoffs with 27. Kahleah Copper added 15 points and five rebounds, including the go-ahead basket with 6:14 left in the fourth to put the Sky up 66-64. Emma Meesseman, who had 13 points, six assists and five steals, then broke a nearly four-minute scoring drought with a jumper from 16 feet at the 2:26 mark to put the Sky ahead for good.
“I just think our mentality has to be, especially when you’re coming into a hostile environment like this, we know Connecticut is a physical team, we know that, we have our work cut out [for us] playing them,” said Parker, who also tied Taj McWilliams-Franklin for No. 7 on the all-time playoff games played list at 64.
“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 circumstance and adjust to the game. And I think that when we’re able to do that, we came out on top just because we were able to adjust to how physical the game was and [do] what we needed to do.”
Sun forward DeWonna Bonner led Connecticut’s scoring effort with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, while three other players recorded double digits, including starters Natisha Hiedeman (14 points) and Courtney Williams (12 points), while newly minted WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones came off the bench to add 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks.
“Once you start stressing, then they already got us beat,” said Bonner regarding their must-win challenge for Game 4. “We just gotta go in, we gotta adjust. We definitely have another chance to step out on the court and try to beat them again. But I don’t think we’re stressing about it. We were right there. We were four points out of this win. So, we’re gonna go back, watch video, have practice and regroup. We’ve got to make our shots, though.”
Connecticut hosts Chicago in Game 4 on Tuesday, at 8 p.m. ET.