Connecticut rediscovered its identity and is back in the WNBA semifinals for a fourth consecutive season. The No. 3-seeded Sun ousted the No. 6 Dallas Wings, 73-58, in the deciding Game 3 held at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas, on Wednesday night.
The game was tied at halftime after Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner nailed a late 3-pointer and Dallas had a bucket waved off after a video review. The Sun kept the defensive pressure on the Wings in the second half, keeping them to 12 points in each frame, and made enough shots to get through. It was a low season for Dallas.
Bonner led all scorers with 21 points and added five rebounds and five assists. Also for the Sun, Jonquel Jones had an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double after early foul trouble. Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and Odyssey Sims had two steals each. DiJonai Carrington came off the bench for four steals, equaling the entire Dallas roster. The Sun finished with 14 steals and had 20 points off of turnovers.
Connecticut will play the No. 2 Chicago Sky in the semifinals that tip off on Sunday. The reigning champions defeated New York, 92-70, in Game 3 at Barclays Center on Tuesday night. The other semifinal is between the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces and No. 4 Seattle Storm, who both swept.
How Sun won the series
Poor shot selection and shooting hurt the Sun early and reigning MVP Jonquel Jones committed two fouls by the time the first quarter was out. She hit a three at the 6:47 mark of the second quarter and played a total of eight minutes with five points on three attempts.
The Sun began to pull away in the third quarter with a 15-4 run for what was then their biggest lead of the game, 49-40. Dallas’ Satou Sabally ended it with two free throws and Arike Ogunbowale entered the game to a standing ovation. It was her first minutes since she underwent core surgery on Aug. 9. She was not expected to be available until the semifinals, but was listed as probable the day before the contest.
Ogunbowale missed all three of her attempts, including two from behind the arc, in 6:18 of playing time.
Dallas closed to within five and Brionna Jones took over for the Sun with six straight points to help put Connecticut up, 57-46, into the fourth. Connecticut rode experience and defense from there to reach another semifinal. The Sun ranks second in defensive efficiency (96.3) and first in steals per game (8.8).
The Wings played most of the game without Isabelle Harrison, who injured her ankle at the 9:25 mark of the second quarter. She didn’t return. They dealt with various insults this season to Sabally, Ogunbowale, Harrison, Allisha Gray and Awak Kuier. Marina Mabrey also missed games in health and safety protocols.
Mabrey scored 20 (7-of-14), but had eight of the team’s 19 turnovers. Veronica Burton was the only other Wings player in double digits at 10. Teaira McCowan had 12 rebounds and two massive blocks.
It was the first playoff game in Dallas. The Wings hadn’t won a playoff game since the franchise was the Detroit Shock in 2009.
Sun fall into WNBA travel conundrum
There were reportedly more issues than previously realized with the teams’ travels from Connecticut, where Game 2 was held on Sunday. Sun head coach Curt Miller told media ahead of the game the plane could hold only 14, which consisted of players and three coaches. They had to leave equipment and the full training staff behind and did not take the court together until the morning of the game. ESPN also shared the same details on the broadcast.
“We were weight restricted, so nothing could travel. Very little could travel with us,” Miller told reporters, per the Harford Courant’s Lila Bromberg. “We arrived Monday night after midnight. The rest of our travel party was either delayed, canceled, all of the above on Tuesday and arrived at dinner time Tuesday with all of our stuff. So until shootaround [Wednesday] morning, we hadn’t been on a basketball court since Sunday.”
The league confirmed on Tuesday it booked charters for each team, a move that came after Harrison tagged commissioner Cathy Engelbert on Twitter to remark on travel woes encountered on Sunday night. Teams travel commercially until the WNBA Finals, which will feature charter flights this season, and the league has stepped in in the past to help in certain situations.
Sun vs. Wings results
Game 1: Sun 93, Wings 68
Game 2: Wings 89, Sun 79
Game 3: Sun 73, Wings 58
WNBA semifinals series schedule
Game 1: Sunday
Connecticut at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 31
Connecticut at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Game 3: Sunday, Sept. 4
Chicago at Connecticut, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Game 4: Tuesday, Sept. 6 (if necessary)
Chicago at Connecticut, TBD on ESPN2
Game 5: Thursday, Sept. 8 (if necessary)
Connecticut at Chicago, TBD on ESPN2