Sun figure to play with desperation at home

The Sky know what it feels like to be a team desperate for its first title. That desperation makes the Sun dangerous, especially as they host the next two games of the best-of-five semifinal series.

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The Chicago Sky gather together on the court before the Sky take on the Connecticut Sun for Game 2 of the 2022 WNBA semifinals at Wintrust Arena, Wednesday evening, Aug. 31, 2022. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Curt Miller’s team doesn’t care about their regular-season success.

After losing in the WNBA semifinals in back-to-back years and in the Finals the year before, the Sun are tired of just missing.

It’s not quite the same as the 2021 Sky. James Wade had led his team to the playoffs in 2019 and 2020, but the Sky lost in the first two rounds both years before going on their championship run.

Still, the Sky know what it feels like to be a team desperate for its first title. That desperation makes the Sun dangerous, especially as they host the next two games of the best-of-five semifinal series.

“For a long time, we’ve been a team that’s really successful during the regular season,” forward Jonquel Jones said. “But for us, that’s not the benchmark.”

Winning mentality

The Sky have had no issues responding to elimination games since last year’s title run. But Candace Parker is challenging her team to have that mentality after wins.

Every playoff game is a must-win, but with the series tied at a game apiece, Game 3 on the road could be critical for the Sky, who need to make this as easy on themselves as possible.

The Sky want to avoid facing an elimination game Tuesday in front of a hostile crowd.

Frontcourt matchups

The Sky and Sun have dominated the inside game all season. The Sky led the league in points in the paint during the regular season, and the Sun finished second.

In Game 1 of the series, the Sun were able to escape with a narrow victory by holding the Sky 16 points below their regular-season average. In Game 2, the Sky were outscored 44-42 in the paint, but they neutralized DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas. Both were held to single-digit scoring.

But the Sky struggled against Jones in Game 2, giving up a game-high 23 points to the reigning MVP. But similar to the Sky with Parker’s historic Game 1 performance — she became the first player in WNBA playoff history with 15 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game — the Sun can’t rely solely on Jones.

Setting the tone

The outcomes of both games in this series were heavily impacted by the play in the first quarter.

In Game 1, the Sun enforced their “messy” style of play that Miller has reiterated will be his team’s key for winning the series. In Game 2, the Sky set the tone in the first 10 minutes with better overall movement. Wade said his players were too stagnant in Game 1, which prevented them from finding an offensive rhythm.

The Sky shot 35.3% from the field in Game 1 and improved to 50.8% in Game 2. They held the Sun below 40% shooting through the first three quarters of Game 2 before allowing them to go on a run that cut the lead to single digits. Jones and Natisha Hiedeman were the only Sun players who finished in double-digit scoring.

To regain control of the series, the Sky must be the aggressors in Game 3, starting in the first quarter.

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