Thursday, October 6, 2022

Sky vs. Sun Game 4 takeaways: Connecticut keeps season alive with historic offensive performance

The Connecticut Sun aren’t done yet. Facing elimination on their home floor on Tuesday night, the Sun put together a dominant performance to race past the Chicago Sky for a 104-80 win in Game 4. With the series now tied at 2-2, the action will shift back to Chicago for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday night.

With their backs against the wall, the Sun came out with as much energy and enthusiasm as everone expected. They were flying around on both sides of the ball and needed just two minutes and 39 seconds to build a double-digit lead. Though the Sky were able to hang around for a while, they never seriously threatened to take the lead, and the Sun pulled away for good late in the third quarter. 

After struggling with their offense for much of this series, the Sun were unstoppable in this one. They set a new WNBA playoff record for points in the paint with 66, and new franchise playoff records by scoring 104 points and shooting 56.9 percent from the field. 

DeWanna Bonner went for 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks in a leading performance, while the Sun also got a much-needed big showing from Courtney Williams, who added 19 points of her own. Alyssa Thomas also had one of her typical performances, chipping in with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. 

Led by Kahleah Copper with 16 points, all five starters scored in double figures for the Sky. As a team, they shot 47.6 percent from the field and generally had little trouble on the offensive end. Their defense, though, left much to be desired; they didn’t make things difficult for the Sun at any point. 

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Sun finally make a layup

During Game 3, the Sun’s exasperated coach, Curt Miller, was caught on his mic’ed up segment questioning why his players couldn’t make a layup. “Any suggestions on pro players making a layup?” Miller said. “Like, honestly, I’m gonna get fired because we can’t make a layup”

In Game 4, they finally figured it out and potentially saved Miller’s job in the process — at least for one more game. The Sun were automatic in this one connecting on 26 of 40 attempts in the restricted area and 33 of 51 attempts in the paint overall. In the process, they set a new WNBA playoff record with 66 points in the paint. Their success around the basket also played a big role in their new franchise records for field goal percentage (56.9) and points (104) in a playoff game. 

While the Sun, in many cases, simply did a better job finishing around the basket, their ability to force turnovers and grab offensive rebounds also played a role in their Game 4 success. They turned the Sky over 15 times, which got them out and running for 11 fastbreak points and pulled down nine offensive rebounds en route to 15 second-chance points. Looks in those situations were easier and also helped the Sun build some confidence after a rough Game 3. 

Williams shows up

During her first stint with the team, Courtney Williams was one of the most dynamic backcourt scorers in the league. She could take over quarters, halves even games at times, and was the team’s joint-leading scorer during their run to the Finals in 2019. Since returning to Connecticut, she has not been able to hit those heights — at least not until Game 4.

On Tuesday night, she delivered her best game of the playoffs at the perfect time for the Sun. She finished with 19 points, four rebounds, and three assists on 9 of 14 from the field. Even more encouraging is the way she went about it; she was getting into the paint and cutting off the ball instead of settling for a stream of low percentage mid-range pull-up jumpers. 

The third quarter, in particular, was a throwback to 2019. Williams took over the frame, slicing the Sky’s defense apart en route to 10 points on 5 of 5 from the field. At one point, she scored three straight layups to push the Sun’s lead to 16 points. When Williams is operating like that, it gives the Sun a completely different dimension on the offensive end. Whether she can do so again in Game 5 remains to be seen; the Sun may need her to if they want to win. 

Sky never locked in

Throughout the regular season, the Sky had numerous halves or games where they seemed disengaged, and it was understandable coming off a championship run. What’s more worrying is that they haven’t been able to shake those habits in the postseason. 

Game 4 was yet another example. They were slow out of the blocks, allowing the Sun to outwork and overwhelm them in the opening few minutes. Save for a brief spell in the second quarter, they never found the focus or cohesion necessary to get back in the game. There were too many moments like this one where Azura Stevens just walked away from Courtney Williams when she had the ball.

Or this one in the third quarter where no one alerted Candace Parker to the fact that Natisha Heideman was tracking back, and then they completely lost Williams on the other end. 

To their credit, the Sky have done a terrific job bouncing back from their worst moments this season. They lost back-to-back games just once, and are already 2-0 in elimination games. Dating back to last season, they are a perfect 4-0 when facing elimination. Do they have one more response in them? 

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