Despite losing Game 1 of the WNBA Finals to the Las Vegas Aces, the Connecticut Sun have made a significant run this season on their way to the Finals. We’ve said it before, but the question remains: could this be the year they make it happen?
The Sun has been in the WNBA Finals as recently as 2019, but they lost in the semifinals the past two summers. In fact, with 36 franchise playoff wins, the Connecticut Sun has the most playoff wins of any WNBA franchise without a championship. The Sun has a history of being knocked down, but more importantly, they also have a legacy of getting back up.
Last week the Connecticut Sun faced elimination in back-to-back games, down 2-1 against the reigning champion Chicago Sky. DeWanna Bonner asked Coach Curt Miller if she could hold a players-only meeting after Connecticut couldn’t win Game 3 despite playing their signature “messy” style of play. The Sun may have mucked up the lane and made life miserable for Chicago, but the Sun had an equally tough time on offense, shooting a dismal 39 percent at the rim.
As the lone champion on the roster, Bonner said she saw a Sun team holding on to some nervousness that made them play tight. She saw that the Sun was playing not to lose and not to make mistakes. The meeting reportedly “rekindled an air of levity and belief that saved Connecticut’s season.”
“DB is a champion,” teammate Natasha Hiedeman said of Bonner. “She’s been there. She knows what it takes. Her speeches have been on point lately, so we’ve been feeding off of that — She’s leading the way, and we’re following.”
Following their meeting, they defeated the Sky in Game 4 in a 104-80 drubbing. They then capitalized on their confidence from their Game 4 win and clinched their path to the WNBA Finals after unleashing a game-sealing 18-0 run to win Game 5, 72-63.
The Sun won after refusing to back down when Kahleah Copper got into Bonner’s face after Bonner knocked down a potential and-1 layup.
“I just sat everybody down, I said, ‘Come on, this is not us,’” Bonner said per ESPN. “‘Let’s just play like whatever happens happens. They kicked our ass anyways, so why not just play?’”
“We weren’t ourselves the first couple games of the [semifinals]. As a matter of fact, the whole playoffs, I felt like we just weren’t ourselves.”
The Finals are now underway, and despite losing Game 1 on Sunday, the Sun know they can do anything as long as they stay together and communicate. A task that isn’t difficult for a veteran core headlined by Bonner and 2021 MVP winner Jonquel Jones. With Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, and Courtney Williams on the court, the Sun has a lineup that knows how to utilize their teamwork and camaraderie.
“I don’t even know if we found that confidence at all in the playoffs until we won that Game 4,” Bonner said. “And then it was like, ‘All right, let’s go,’ This is how we want to play. We want to have fun. We can’t have fun if we’re playing uptight.’”
Bonner is averaging 12.7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and 3.8 assists per game in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST.