No team in WNBA history came into the playoffs more dominant than the Connecticut Sun. Not only did the team have a historic 14-game winning streak in the second half of the season, but as the playoffs entered the semi-final round the Sun received multiple post-season awards. These included WNBA Coach of the Year for Curt Miller, Kia WNBA Most Improved Player for Brionna Jones and Kia WNBA Most Valuable Player Jonquel Jones.
In semi-final one, the Sun faced off with the Chicago Sky and the Sky burned the Sun 101–95. Connecticut battled back in game two, prevailing 79–68. When the action moved to Chicago for game three, the Sky took full advantage, winning 86–83. The game’s high scorers were Kahleah Copper with 26 points and Allie Quigley with 21 points, but the impact of Candace Parker, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, cannot be underestimated. After 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, Parker signed with the Sky so she could spend the summer playing in front of family.
The other semi-final features the Las Vegas Aces and the Phoenix Mercury. While the Aces had a much better regular season—finishing 24–8 as compared to the Mercury’s 19–13—not to mention the Aces got to rest as the Mercury had to defeat the New York Liberty and then the Seattle Storm in the first two rounds of the playoffs, it cannot be underestimated that the Mercury is the only team in the semi-finals that has won a WNBA Championship (2007, 2009 and 2014). The Aces won game one 96–90, but the Mercury dominated game two 117–91 and prevailed in game three 87–60. Brittney Griner, who is having perhaps the best season of her WNBA career, contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
“We knew that this was a big game—game three is always a big game in a series like that, especially when you split—so we wanted to come home and win,” said Griner after game three. “Everybody knows what’s on the line. … We know what it takes.”
Game four was last night. Other post-season WNBA honors include the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award to Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks, Sixth Woman of the Year to Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces and WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year to Aces general manager of basketball operations Dan Padover. If either semi-final goes to a fifth game, it will be played tomorrow evening. The Finals start on Sunday.