2022 WNBA Playoffs: 3 Sun - fueled by heated Kahleah Copper-DeWanna Bonner trade - ousts Sky for final

2022 WNBA Playoffs: 3 Sun – fueled by heated Kahleah Copper-DeWanna Bonner trade – ousts Sky for final

The Connecticut Sun is through to the WNBA Finals with a 72-63 comeback win over defending champion Chicago Sky in a Game 5 decider at Wintrust Arena. The Sun had already begun to erase an 11-point deficit when a heated under the basket exchange between Sky’s Kahleah Copper and Sun’s DeWanna Bonner fueled a complete erase and eventual win.

This is fourth place for No. 3 seeded Sun and they will face the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces. Game 1 of the WNBA Finals begins Sunday in Las Vegas (3 p.m. ET, ABC) . Both franchises are aiming for their first titles.

Chicago’s loss ends Sky’s quest for a new championship, which would have been the first since the 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks. Chicago, seeded No. 2 this year, shocked the Sun, seeded number one, in the 2021 semifinals as the seeded No. 6.

Connecticut kept Chicago scoreless for the final 4:41 of the game and finished on an 18-0 run, the longest point streak to close a playoff game, according to ESPN statistics and information. They had 25 assists on 27 baskets, a franchise record and the second highest mark in playoff history, by Positive Residual.

It’s the first time in WNBA history that a team has had five players registering at least 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and one block. All five Sun starters achieved those goals, led by 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists from “The Engine” Alyssa Thomas. Jonquel Jones, the 2021 MVP, had 15 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Controversial no-call changes momentum of game

The interaction happened with less than four minutes left in a nine-point game, 63-54. Copper fouled Bonner on the lay-up and as Bonner yelled “and-1” with the flowing ball, Copper pushed her in the chest with her right arm. They started chewing and Bonner pushed Copper’s arm away.

Bonner eventually walked away, Jones hit back at Copper and his Sky teammates came in. Meanwhile, Sky head coach James Wade ran up the field and under the basket to call a time out.

“We’ve been locked in,” Jonquel Jones said during the ESPN broadcast of the trade. “We’re not about to be bullied. It is what it is.”

The referees reviewed and said there was nothing after the game. No technique was assessed, objectively a shocking decision considering all the techniques called throughout the season. If a technical had been given to Copper, who had fired one earlier in the game, she would have been ejected from the semifinals and suspended from Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, had Sky advanced.

Phoenix Mercury players have been particularly vocal on Twitter about the lack of technology, especially Diamond DeShields.

Bonner completed the game on three points. On the other end, Courtney Williams blocked a 3-point attempt from Allie Quigley and Thomas assisted on the bucket for Williams. Thomas had two free throws and assisted on a Natisha Hiedeman bucket that tied the game at 2:24. Jones scored three, Williams hit a dagger pull-up on another Thomas assist and Bonner added four free throws in the final 20 seconds.

The sky loses its crown, faces an uncertain future

Much like the Seattle Storm before it, the Chicago Sky is heading into a very uncertain offseason.

Copper, the 2021 Finals MVP, is the only contracted starter in 2023. Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Quigley and Azura Stevens, their sixth nominee, are all unrestricted free agents. There is a chance that Parker and Quigley will retire.

There’s also prioritization, which requires players to return from overseas commitments and join their teams on the first day of the season. Many players have expressed concern over the stipulation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which will come into effect before next season. Some might choose to only play overseas, a consideration for Vandersloot and Meesseman.

The Sky lost despite turning the Sun more than 23 times, tying a record for turnovers in a WNBA playoff victory. They assisted on 18 of their 24 field goals, but were only 24.3% from the field and 32% (8 of 25) from 3 points. They were again crushed on the boards, 43-28, and in the paint points, 36-26, despite some big early rebounds from Meesseman.

Copper scored a team-high 22 points after coming alive in the second quarter and switching energy in favor of the Sky. Vandersloot and Meesseman were the only other Sky players in double figures. It looked like Chicago had a place in the final locked in until the final four minutes.

WNBA Finals Schedule

Game 1: Sunday, Las Vegas, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)

Game 2: Tuesday, Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 3: Thursday, September 15, at Connecticut, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 4*: Sunday, September 18, at Connecticut, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 5*: Tuesday, Sept. 20 in Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

*If necessary

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