It was ugly, just the way Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller wanted it. Maybe a little uglier than most others would have liked.
But the No. 3 seed Sun couldn't buy the first vowel in "offense" and lost the mightily messy Game 3 affair to the No. 2 seed Chicago Sky, 76-72, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Sunday. Chicago leads the best-of-five series, 2-1, and is one victory away from a return to the WNBA Finals that tips off in one week. Connecticut will need to win out, including in Game 4 back at Mohegan Sun on Tuesday night.
In what will surely become a trendy mic'd up moment, Miller asked his squad in the first half if they had "any suggestions on pro players making a layup?" Connecticut was 8-of-26 (30%) in the paint in the first half and 18-of-48 (27.5%) by game's end. They scored 36 of their 72 points there.
curt miller: "any suggestions on pro players making a layup? like honestly im gonna get fired because we can't make a layup" pic.twitter.com/p76JkQvVey
— jack maloney (@jackmaloneycbs) September 4, 2022
DeWanna Bonner scored a game-high 18 with 11 rebounds. Nearly half of her points were at the free-throw line in an ugly shooting game for each team. The Sun were 36.8% and Sky were 37.1%.
The Sun won Game 1 by making it "messy," in Miller's words and are often the team to dig out ugly wins. But it usually comes with some semblance of solid offense that was absent on Sunday. A few more made buckets and it would be Connecticut on the brink of a Finals appearance.
How Sun can stay alive in semifinals
Courtney Williams missed early layups, Bonner went without on back-to-back transition runs and Alyssa Thomas missed six down low by the half. The offense had such a tough time that 6-6 center Jonquel Jones was called for a three-second violation while bellowing for the ball against Rebekah Gardner, the Sky's 6-1 guard. And multiple times in the third, passes flew out of bounds with no white jersey anywhere near the target. They had 17 turnovers.
Jones, the reigning MVP, played limited minutes and was not on the court down the stretch of a four-point contest. She returned with under a minute when the deficit had grown to eight. Jones had six points (3-of-10) and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
Williams missed a few early, but made it to the free-throw line and combined for 26 points with backcourt mate Natisha Hiedeman (5-of-9). It was the guards' strongest semifinal performance and a necessity while Jones and Thomas struggled. They shot a combined 6-of-22 for 12 points.
The Sun need to make shots, plain and simple, to force a deciding Game 5 in Chicago. They were 5-of-12 from 3 and +11 on the boards.
Sky move one game from Finals
It was, at times, just as ugly for the Sky. Chicago had opportunities to pull away, but never could until the final minutes. Even once they had pushed the lead to eight, the Sun came within a basket at the 22-second mark.
There were no superstar offensive performances in Game 3. They successfully shut down Jonquel Jones and collapsed on the paint, making every shot and pass out difficult. Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones didn't fare much better in the bucket department (4-of-11), though she was successful in getting to the free-throw line and finished with 12 points.
Fantastic ball and player movement by the Sky. I’m not sure the Sun could have defended it any better, yet Chicago finds a layup through some late creation by Emma Meesseman and timely cut by Rebekah Gardner. pic.twitter.com/2vvnjmhrZ9
— Positive Residual (@presidual) September 4, 2022
Candace Parker put up another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The stat-packer added four assists and three blocks. She was hit in the eye in the first quarter and caught knees with Thomas in the third.
Kahleah Copper scored 15, nine of which were in the deciding fourth. Emma Meesseman scored 13 and Courtney Vandersloot had 12.
The good news for Chicago is they did enough playing the Sun's style to win and take command of the series. There were 12 lead changes and 11 ties.
WNBA semifinal schedule
Game 1: Sun 68, Sky 63
Game 2: Sky 85, Sun 77
Game 3: Sky 76, Sun 72 (Sky lead, 2-1)
Game 4: Tuesday, Chicago at Connecticut, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Game 5*, Thursday, Connecticut at Chicago, 8 p.m ET, ESPN2