Throughout the WNBA semifinal series between the Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky, a lot of the focus has been on the Sun’s physicality and whether the Sky could withstand it when their style is typically more free-flowing and fast-paced.
“They’re tall, they’re big, they’re long, but I think we focused too much on getting the foul instead of just going up through them and finishing,” Sun forward DeWanna Bonner said Sunday after the Sky’s 76-72 victory in Game 3. “So we have to do a better job if we want to beat Chicago (with) finishing.”
After losing Game 1, the Sky have rebounded with tough back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3 and have a chance to book their ticket to the WNBA Finals for a second consecutive year.
Can they turn up their defense one more time in Game 4 on Tuesday (7 pm, ESPN2) and overcome the physical intensity of a Sun team with its back against the wall?
The teams were assessed a combined 34 personal fouls in Game 3. The Sky’s Emma Meesseman and Azurá Stevens and the Sun’s Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams each had four fouls.
Sky starters Candace Parker and Kahleah Copper both exited the game briefly after hard, inadvertent contact from Sun players.
Parker was hit in the eye in the first quarter by Thomas’ elbow, and Copper took a knee to the body from Williams in the third quarter and was down along the baseline for a few minutes.
Though Copper walked it off and returned, the hard foul could be concerning considering she stayed down for a full play after colliding with New York Liberty center Stefanie Dolson during a first-round game on Aug. 17 and suffered a noncontact injury to her ankle in practice on Aug. 19. Both injuries were to Copper’s right leg. There were questions about her mobility and availability after the injury, but the All-Star guard hasn’t missed any games.
“We know Connecticut is a physical team,” Parker said. “We know that we have our work cut out, and we knew Game 3 was going to be a grind. And that’s what we try to do.
“We try to evolve and adjust to the circumstances 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.”
With offense hard to come by, the Sky defense needed to step up Sunday. The Sky lead the WNBA playoffs with 52 steals, nine ahead of the second-place Sun. The Sun’s plan to force the Sky into playing their game all series has succeeded, but the Sky had an answer in Game 3.
“It’s the playoffs. So we have to build,” Sky coach James Wade said. “We have to play on what we built throughout the season. And one thing we’ve prided ourselves on is playing together throughout adversity. Even though it was a defensive and physical battle, we were up for the challenge and we came out victorious.”