The Chicago Sky looked like they were on their way to their second straight appearance in the W.N.B.A. finals. They led Connecticut by 9 points with less than five minutes to go in the decisive Game 5, and had held the Sun to just 14 points since halftime. Sky guard Kahleah Copper was dominating, forcing turnovers, flexing her muscles and clapping her hands en route to a game-high 22 points.
But that was it for the Sky: They were held scoreless for the final 4 minutes and 46 seconds of the game. The Sun used an 18-0 run to stun the Sky on their home floor, 72-63, and advance to the finals, where they will face the Las Vegas Aces starting Sunday in Las Vegas.
The Sun’s win avenges their loss to the Sky in the semifinals last year. It also ends the Chicago’s quest to become the first team to repeat as W.N.B.A. champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
The Sun were paced by double-doubles from Jonquel Jones (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Alyssa Thomas (12 points and 10 rebounds). Sun forward DeWanna Bonner added 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Through the first three games of the series, Chicago’s Candace Parker was nearly unstoppable. She averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds to help the Sky get out to a 2-1 series lead. But in Game 4, the Sun neutralized Parker, holding her to just 11 points and 9 rebounds.
And on the offensive side of the ball, the Sun dominated Parker and the Sky from the inside. The Sun have one of the tallest and most physical frontcourts in the league with Jonquel Jones (6-foot-6), Bonner (6-foot-4), Brionna Jones (6-foot-3), and Thomas (6-foot-2); they used that to their advantage to score a playoff-record 66 points from the painted area in Game 4. They beat the Sun, 104-80, achieving a franchise playoff record for points scored in a game to tie the series at two games apiece.
Early in Game 5, Chicago’s offense was stagnant, with players seeming nervous to shoot the ball close to the basket for fear of being blocked by one of the Sun’s bigs. The Sun ended the first quarter down just 8 points, with Parker scoreless. In the second quarter, Copper took over. She scored 9 points to bring the game to a 40-40 tie to go into halftime with the momentum on the Sky’s side.
Parker continued to struggle offensively, but she was dominant on defense, blocking four shots and grabbing three steals. The Sky held the Sun to 8 points in the third and led by 10 points heading into the final quarter. But the Sky would score just 5 points for the remainder of the game, as the Sun scored 24 to silence the Chicago crowd and advance to the finals.