Connecticut Sun prevail over Chicago Sky in Game 1 of WNBA semifinal series despite Candace Parke...

ByAlexa Philippou ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 31, 2022

CHICAGO -- The Connecticut Sun may have dropped all four of their regular-season meetings with theChicago Sky, but they managed to get their first win of the summer over the defending champs when it mattered most.

The third-seeded Sun defeated the 2-seed Sky 68-63 on Sunday at Wintrust Arena to take Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series, a rematch from last year's playoffs.

With the No. 4-seed Seattle Storm taking down the No. 1-seed Las Vegas Aces earlier in the day, it marked the third time in WNBA history -- and first since 2005 -- that road teams each won Game 1 of the semifinal/conference final round.

Teams to win Game 1 on the road in a best-of-five series have won eight of 12 series in WNBA playoff history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Chicago'sCandace Parker was exquisite in the loss, "keep[ing] us alive, especially in the second half," teammateAzura Stevenssaid.

The two-time WNBA MVP became the first WNBA player to compile at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists in a playoff game by finishing with 19 points, 18 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 assists and 4 steals; she fell one steal short of recording the second 5x5 game in league history, something she achieved during her rookie season in 2008.

But outside of Parker's heroics, not much else went right for the Sky's typically well-oiled machine of an offense against the aggressive Connecticut defense, as Chicago was held to just 63 points, its fewest in a game this season, on 35.3% shooting. The Sky had the opportunity to tie the game with 16 seconds remaining, but strong Connecticut defense and a rebound of a Parker 3-point miss led to a DeWanna Bonner transition basket on the other end that sealed the win.

The play was emblematic of much of the Sun's Game 1 successes: Connecticut beat Chicago 18-6 in transition scoring, including Bonner alone with 10 points.

"A lot of free-flowing offenses of the four teams left, and we know who we are," Sun coach Curt Miller said. "We're blue collar. We're going to be good around the basket. We're going to rebound and we're going to defend our tails off, but we have to make it messy. And we got the game messy tonight, which was our advantage."

"I felt like we played their style," Sky coach James Wade said. "They wanted us to play their style of game, where it was slow and methodical, and we like to play a little bit more free. ... We'll be ready for it next game."

Though the Sky swept the regular-season series between these teams, the games had all been decided by an average of 4.5 points, so it was no shock Game 1 of the semifinals was so tight. On one play in the fourth quarter, the Sky's Kahleah Copper and Sun's Courtney Williams fought over the ball and both refused to let it go until well after the play was over.

"It's just whoever wants it more because they have beef with us from last year and all that," Stevens said. "I think that play with Kah, that was great. That's the type of series this is going to be, is who wants it more, who's not going to let the ball go. So I think we just have to bring even more energy in the next game and we will."

The Sun, making their fourth consecutive appearance in the semifinals, are seeking to break through to secure the franchise's first title. Following their 2019 Finals run, they were without Jonquel Jones (opt-out) in the 2020 bubble, Alyssa Thomas (Achilles tear) for most of 2021 and now Jasmine Thomas (ACL tear) for nearly all of the 2022 campaign.

"We know that this team won't be together maybe next year. Contracts are up," Bonner said. "The way we're playing in the playoffs, the confidence we have in each other, the belief, our defense -- we're just playing, we're just in the moment, we're just in the present. And whatever happens out there, once we give our best effort, that's what happens."

Chicago, which won it all as the No. 6 seed last season following a .500 regular season, hopes to become the first WNBA team to repeat as champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and '02. The Sky also lost Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the New York Liberty at home before finishing out the series with a pair of comfortable wins to advance to the semifinals.

"I think that's just sort of been our M.O. for the last two years, is we always find a way to bounce back," Stevens said. "We lost the first game in the New York series, and we bounced back. So I think for sure we'll be more prepared for anything that they throw at us. And we will for sure play better, I think, the next game."

Game 2 is Wednesday in Chicago (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

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