All the Connecticut Sun needed was that unifying moment to heat them up and spark a key moment during Thursday’s series-clinching Game 5. That moment came during the fourth quarter as the Sun was beginning to methodically break down Chicago’s 11-point lead with 3:46 seconds to go.
DeWanna Bonner knocked down the hoop and the harm despite a hard foul from Kahleah Cooper (game-high 22 points), who took exception to Bonner’s celebration of the potential and-1 bucket and pushed Bonner as the two veterans began to jack their jaws in each others faces.
The tense interaction didn’t draw any technical fouls, but it did inspire the Sun to unleash a game-defying 18-0 run that eliminated the Sun, 72-63, and set a WNBA Finals date with the Aces. During postgame interviews, it was clear Bonner not backing down from Copper was pivotal for the Sun; when Jonquel Jones was asked about it during her TV interview with ESPN, she said the Sun “locked in” afterward and decided “we’re not about to be bullied.”
“That was our moment to settle it down,” Bonner said per YahooSports. “Yeah, we got fired up. We just looked up and was like, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of time left.’ That was all the fire needed.”
This is everything we’ve worked for.
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 9, 2022
The Sun held the Sky to five points in the fourth quarter, the fewest scored in the fourth quarter of a winner-take-all game in WNBA history and the second-fewest in any playoff game. Connecticut also held Chicago to 34.3 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the former champs 43-28.
All five Connecticut starters scored in double-digits, led by Bonner (nine rebounds and five assists) and Jones (10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks), who scored 15 points apiece. Natasha Hiedeman posted 14 points and four assists, followed by 12 points apiece from Courtney Williams (six rebounds and five assists) and Alyssa Thomas (10 rebounds and eight assists).
“We wanted this one bad,” Bonner said. “We come up here every year, and Chicago kick our ass. They do; that’s just what it is. We’ve lost to them like seven times in a row like we couldn’t figure it out. I think that in Game 4, we figured it out and came here and came here with a little more confidence. Cause usually we come here, and we look up at the first score when we play Chicago, we’re down 20.”
“And that time, I think we figured it out at home; I think we wanted it a little bit more (At Wintrust Arena).”
The Game 5 win also helped Connecticut exercise their Chicago demons. The Sky swept the Sun 4-0 in the regular-season and eliminated Connecticut in the first round of last year’s postseason before claiming the 2021 title.
It would’ve been easy for the Sun to fold after allowing Chicago to outscore them by 18 during the second and third quarters, but this playoff-tested Connecticut team needed a moment like that Bonner-Copper action to inspire them to greater heights. Connecticut’s series-clinching 18-0 run is the longest to close out a WNBA playoff game in League history.
“When adversity hits, sometimes we fold,” Hiedeman said. “Not no more, we’re not folding no more. As you all saw (after) the third quarter, we picked up right back up once again. Now we’re going to the championship. Job not done yet.”
Definitely Hiedemans night pic.twitter.com/3uEsdqzqGj
— WSLAM (@wslam) September 9, 2022
The WNBA Finals will begin on Sunday.