The Connecticut Sun are in their fourth consecutive semifinals and still chasing their first WNBA title, but getting past this round won’t be easy. The Sun are taking on the defending champions Chicago Sky, a team they haven’t been able to beat since September 2021, and also the same team that eliminated them during the semifinals last year.
Neither team was able to get a sweep during the first round, but they both bounced back in impressive ways after their losses. The Sky took a 98-91 loss at home during Game 1 against the New York Liberty after missing 10 of their last 11 shots. Not an ideal way to start the playoffs, but they bounced back and responded with a 38-point blowout victory during Game 2 with a 100-62 result.
Meanwhile, the Sun won their first game against the Dallas Wings but took a 89-79 loss in Game 2, when Connecticut struggled to stop the Wings’ hot performance from beyond the arc. The Sun were more solid in Game 3 when they took a 73-58 victory on the road, holding the Wings to their lowest score of the series.
Ahead of Sunday night’s Game 1, let’s take a closer look at this best-of-five series:
Second round schedule
(All times are eastern)
- Game 1: Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky; Sunday Aug. 28; ESPN2, 8:00 PM ET
- Game 2: Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky; Wednesday Aug. 31; ESPN2, 8:00 PM ET
- Game 3: Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun; Sunday Sept. 4; ESPN2, 1:00 PM ET
- Game 4*: Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun; Tuesday Sept. 6; ESPN2, Time TBD
- Game 5*: Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky; Thursday Sept. 8; ESPN2, Time TBD
* if necessary
Players to watch
Sun: Jonquel Jones
Jones continues to play like the reigning MVP she is. She finished the regular season as the team leader in scoring and rebounding with an average of 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting at 51.3 percent from the field.
Jones has shot at 50% from the field and scored in double figures in all three playoff games so far, including a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds during Game 3 against Dallas. She found herself in early foul trouble during that game but her team has a handful of players who can step up. DeWanna Bonner led the team with a 21-point performance, followed by Alyssa Thomas’ 13 points and eight rebounds.
Sky: Candace Parker
Kahleah Copper has been a strong offensive force for the Sky this season, but Candace Parker doesn’t fall too far behind. There is a reason the 6-foot-4 forward is one of the most recognizable names in the WNBA. The veteran seems to be able to register triple-doubles in her sleep. Her latest one happened during Game 3 against the Liberty with 14 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
Parker averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, one steal and one block per game through the 2022 regular season. The two-time MVP is on full playoff mode now, averaging 14.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.7 blocks per game during the first round series against the New York Liberty.
Three storylines/keys to the series
1. They are both chasing big things
Chicago is looking to become the first team to pull off back-to-back titles since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02. Before that, only the Houston Comets had been able to defend their title 1997-2000. According to the WNBA, just five defending champions have found their way back to the championship game the season after winning their trophy through the last 20 years: 2006 Sacramento Monarchs, 2007 Detroit Shock, 2012 Minnesota Lynx, 2016 Minnesota Lynx and 2017 Sparks. Let’s see if the Sky can join that list.
Meanwhile, it’s almost surprising the Sun don’t have a ring yet. They have the second highest winning percentage in the WNBA the last 24 years at 55.8 percent, only the Sparks have a better record according to Basketball Reference.
2. Sky swept the Sun but…
This can be misleading because three of the four regular season games Chicago won were decided by four points or fewer. The largest win for Chicago was an eight-point result of 91-83 on June 29. That one had the potential to become a blowout as Chicago went on a 31-9 run in the first half and was up by as many as 23 points. Those first two quarters saw some impressive stats from the Sky, who went 20-for-24 from the field, while the Suns went 12-for-40.
Chances are that the Sky can’t shoot at 80 percent or better for an entire game, so it would be in their best interest to not let any double-digit leads slip away from them during this round because the Sun have shown they don’t get intimidated easily and will definitely fight for a comeback.
3. Both have elite stats, but taking care of the ball will be important
These two teams had the two best shooting percentages in the league during the regular season, and both were in the top three for points per game, so it could be a fun game offensively. Connecticut is also terrific at scoring off opponents’ mistakes.
The Sun have been the best team at forcing turnovers this year, as opponents averaged 16.4 turnovers per game against them during the regular season. They averaged a league-best 19.2 points off turnovers through 36 games. This means that the Sky, who averaged 14.8 turnovers before the playoffs, will have to be careful. Connecticut also led in steals with an average of 8.8 per game, with DiJonai Carrington averaging 2.0 steals per game.
The Sky have shown they can handle whatever Connecticut throws at them as demonstrated by their 10-4 record over the Sun since 2020. The Sun definitely have the capacity to pull off an upset, but that seems like a very difficult task to accomplish. Pick: Sky in 5.