Chicago Sky grind out Game 3 win over Connecticut Sun, on cusp of return trip to WNBA Finals

ByAlexa Philippou ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The defending champion Chicago Sky are one win away from returning to the WNBA Finals after serving a 76-72 Game 3 loss to the Connecticut Sun on their home floor.

No. 2 seed Chicago is four wins away from becoming the first team to repeat as WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks did it in 2001 and 2002.

The Sun were able to achieve their preferred "messy" style of play -- a physical, defensive slog -- and hold the typically free-flowing Chicago offense to 24% shooting from 3 and just 30 points in the paint. But Connecticut missed 61% of its attempts from five feet or closer to the basket -- its worst field goal percentage on such shots this postseason -- making it difficult for the Sun to fully establish firm control of the game.

"Connecticut is a physical team. We know that," two-time MVP and WNBA champion Candace Parker said. "We have our work cut out playing them and we knew Game 3 was going to be a grind. We try to evolve and adjust to the circumstance and adjust to the game, and I think that we were able to do that. We came out on top just because we were able to adjust to how physical the game was and what we needed to do."

"One thing that we pride ourselves on is playing together through adversity," Sky coach James Wade added. "And I thought that we did a good job of it. We responded well to their runs, didn't have any lulls. Even though it was a defensive and physical battle, we were up for the challenge."

Parker led the team in scoring, as she has in each game this series, with 16 points, while also coming away with 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. On the other end of the floor, she was part of the reason Connecticut struggled to get reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones (6 points, 3-for-10 shooting) going amid an inefficient night in the paint for the Sun. When Parker contested a shot as either the primary or help defender, the Sun went 6-for-23 from the field in Game 3, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Neither team led by more than two possessions most of the way in a tightly contested battle, just as much of the series has been. And after an extended fourth-quarter stretch with Chicago up two in which neither team managed to score, 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman was responsible for the Sky's final two baskets from the field, giving them a semblance of breathing room with less than a minute to play.

Then afterDeWanna Bonner's free throws made it a two-point game with 22 seconds to go, Parker converted a pair of her own from the line with 15.2 remaining, which proved to be the dagger.

Aside from her clutch shots, Meesseman had one of her better games of the postseason with 13 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, 3 rebounds and 1 block, not to mention her strong defense on Jones. Parker, meanwhile, finished with her 27th career playoff double-double, tied with Tamika Catchings for the most in WNBA postseason history.

"They're great players and they respond in great moments and big moments," Wade said of Parker and Meesseman, the team's two massive free agency acquisitions over the past two offseasons. "We needed them to be who they are and respond to the big moments like today, and this is what I had in mind [when they came to Chicago]. We just want great players to be great."

Jonquel Jones was subbed out with 3:37 remaining and the Sun down two, and did not return to the floor until the Sky were back up six with just under a minute to go.

"I have to make those calls, difficult decisions all the time," Sun coach Curt Miller said. "They at times don't come with as many doubles to Bri Jones. So at times, do we get the ball inside with spacing that we want at times because they send so much attention to JJ? It's kind of a feel. ... Searching when we were struggling to score and trying to find some more movement late in that game when we're struggling to score."

Game 4 in Connecticut is set for 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

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