With title windows narrowing, Sun, Storm surge to start WNBA semifinals

Chicago's Emma Meesseman and Connecticut's Jonquel Jones battle for a rebound in the WNBA semifinals. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun played with a palpable urgency Sunday night, which helped lead both teams to Game 1 wins in their respective semifinal contests.

Both teams entered the 2022 WNBA playoffs with key players on expiring contracts, imbuing this year’s postseason with added importance.

Seattle has nine contracts set to expire in 2023 — including those of Sue Bird, who plans to retire at the end of this year, and Breanna Stewart, who inked a one-year deal ahead of this season.

Eager to send Bird off on a high, the Storm surged to a 76-73 win over the No. 1 Aces on Sunday, handing Seattle the 1-0 series advantage.

Stewart and Jewell Loyd, who proved clutch down the stretch for the Storm, combined for 50 points as Seattle quieted Las Vegas from the perimeter.

The Connecticut Sun also have their mind on winning with their current group of core players, who have helped the team reach four consecutive semifinals. Courtney Williams, Natisha Hiedeman and Brionna Jones all have contracts set to expire after the season.

“We know that this team won’t be together maybe next year,” DeWanna Bonner said following Sunday night’s win. “Contracts are up. The way we’re playing in the playoffs, the confidence we have in each other, the belief, our defense, we’re just playing, we’re just in the moment, we’re just in the present. And whatever happens out there, once we give our best effort, that’s what happens.”

Connecticut exuded a win-now mentality as the team gritted out a 68-63 victory over the defending WNBA champion Chicago Sky.

Bonner led the charge with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Alyssa Thomas added 12 points and 10 rebounds to secure the 1-0 series lead.

All four teams will be back in action Wednesday, with Connecticut taking on Chicago at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Seattle facing off against Las Vegas at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.