Sun ready to ‘finish mission’ after advancing to WNBA Finals with stunning Game 5 win over Sky

CHICAGO — Odysseus Sims walked down the sideline and put a hand to his ear like a WWE wrestler listening to the roar of the crowd, but nothing was coming back. Stunned by what they had just witnessed, most in Wintrust Arena fell silent. Only the Connecticut Sun and their small legion of supporters were making any noise.

In the final seven minutes and 20 seconds of Game 5 of Thursday night’s winner-takes-all semifinals, the Suns outscored the defending champion Chicago Sky 22-2 on their home floor to win 72-63 and steal a trip to the WNBA Finals . It was a comeback so stunning and incredible that even the participants had trouble processing it immediately afterward.

Sun assistant coach Brandi Poole was speechless as she walked out of the locker room with the rest of the jubilant coaching staff and hugged members of the team’s traveling group. “I don’t know how this happened,” she said.

The feeling of disbelief was the same in the opposing dressing room. “It’s tough,” Sky head coach James Wade said. “It’s probably one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had professionally. It’s hard to put into words right now… It’s probably going to hurt for a long time.”

In a contest befitting this series, Game 5 was a true scrap that was less about basketball skills and execution and more about guts, pride and determination. The former can be a problem at times for Sun, but they’ve proven they have plenty of the latter.

After a disastrous third quarter in which they had as many points, eight, as they gave up, the Sun trailed by 11 early in the fourth. They could and probably should have been done and were minutes away from another early playoff exit and an offseason full of tough questions. It was at this point that they decided to resist. Instead of letting things play out, they focused on the positives, vowed to work harder than ever, and began to drift apart little by little.

Finally, with just under four minutes to play, they got their breakthrough. On the second of two offensive scrambles on one possession, DeWanna Bonner converted an and-one and had a screamer. Kahleah Copper didn’t like the display of emotion and the two went at it, exchanging words and a brief shove.

The refs reviewed the situation and did not add an additional penalty, presumably because assessing a double technical would have ejected Cooper (who was already on a technical) from the game. But although Sky got lucky with the referees’ decision, the damage had already been done.

“I think the momentum has shifted with the whole stock market and review of Copper,” Alyssa Thomas told CBS Sports. “Right there was everything we needed to give us that final push.” After that, there was no turning back.”

The Suns didn’t allow a single point the rest of the way, overwhelming the Sky with relentless defensive pressure during their final drive. They came up with numerous impressive defensive plays, including a monster layup by Jonquel Jones that started a fast break that tied the game with 2:24 left. After Natisha Hiedeman beat Courtney Vandersloot for a loose ball on the ensuing possession, Jones converted an and-one to put the Sun ahead for good.

“Yeah, it was instinct,” Jones told CBS Sports. “It was a test of endurance, a test of the mindset and attitude of the team. It means a lot, not only because of the way we won, but because of the team that we beat – the team that is the former champion and a really tough team.. For us to go out there and impose our will and when things don’t go our way way to stay together, it was a big growth moment for us as a team.”

In the final 7:20, Sun shot 7 of 12 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free throw line. On the other end, they forced three turnovers (four if you include the jump ball they forced then won when the Sky were in possession), blocked two shots and limited the Sky to 1 of 11 from the field.

They are now in the finals for the first time since 2019 and the fourth time in franchise history; The team’s first title is at hand again, but they’ll have to go through the No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces to get it.

“It’s going to be a battle of wills,” Jones said. “I’m really excited about it. We’ve been here before. We were here in 2019, the last four years in the semi-finals. Time to complete the mission. It’s time to get the job done.”

Leave a Comment