After a rather stunning blowout in Game 2 that saw the Dallas Wings even their first round series with the Connecticut Sun at 1-1, the series shifted to Texas for a winner-take-all Game 3.
Both teams had travel issues on their way to Dallas, requiring charters from the league just to get in town with a day to spare, but with only 14 people able to take those charters each, Connecticut hadn’t practiced at all until shootaround on Wednesday morning due to a lack of personnel and equipment. Early on, it looked like both teams were shaking off some rust, as neither offense could really get much going in what was a low-scoring game throughout.
The Wings would take a four-point advantage after the first quarter, finding success attacking the rim early — but those lanes would soon be closed off.
Connecticut would tie things up at halftime in a low-scoring, 34-34 affair that saw both teams struggling to find a rhythm, although Natisha Hiedeman and Marina Mabrey would provide some rare three-point makes for both teams in the second.
The third quarter saw the Sun start to gain their footing, with the Wings simply not having the size to deal with Dewanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, and Alyssa Thomas on the boards, as those four players piled up 30 combined rebounds, which was more than the entire Wings team had combined. Part of the issue for the Wings inside was losing Isabelle Harrison to an ankle injury after she went down in the second quarter and had to be helped off the floor.
From that point on, the Sun dominated inside on both ends and after a terrific Game 2 off the bench, Teaira McCowan was unable to find that same level of effectiveness for Dallas in Game 3. Bonner led the way with 21 points for the Sun, with Thomas adding 13 points and Jones and Hiedeman providing 11 points each in the win. The Sun weren’t spectacular offensively, shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from three, but their defense truly was something to behold, as they forced 18 turnovers and held the Wings to a nearly identical poor shooting night, and pounded the glass with 16 offensive boards to consistently give themselves second-chance opportunities.
Dallas simply could not deal with the length and activity of the Sun’s defense, and even bringing Arike Ogunbowale back briefly off the bench in the third quarter couldn’t stop Connecticut from pulling away. The fourth quarter saw Dallas show some fight and keep things fairly respectable, but they never mounted a true charge. The most interesting part of the quarter was some jawing between Marina Mabrey and DiJonai Carrington that earned them both technical fouls to the delight of Ja Morant, who was seated courtside and was thoroughly enjoying the on-court chatter.
Ultimately, the Sun cruised to a 73-58 win, building some confidence in the process after there were surely some lingering doubts after getting knocked out as the 1-seed a year ago in their first series and finding themselves in a win-or-go home situation again (in a new round one format).
Connecticut will now head to Chicago to face the 2-seeded Sky in a Best of 5 semifinal series for the right to go to the WNBA Finals, where either the Storm or Aces will be waiting. The Sun will need to find their shooting stroke again if they’re to dispatch the defending champs, but they will certainly feel good about where they’re at as a unit on defense coming out of this game.
For Dallas, they head to the offseason with some positive vibes for the first time since the franchise moved to Dallas, as they won their first playoff game in 13 years in Game 2 and finished with their first .500 season since moving from Tulsa. They’ll hope that better health and a few tweaks to the roster can get them back in the playoff hunt next year, with designs on a run beyond the first round.