The Connecticut Sun had victory within reach well into the fourth quarter of Sunday’s WNBA Finals contest against the Las Vegas Aces.
The Sun held a slim lead on their home court with less than two minutes left to play in Game 4 of the championship series. Then Aces guard Riquna Williams nailed back-to-back jumpers to grab the lead for her team, and Las Vegas held on to win the game and the title.
The heartbreak felt familiar for the Sun, who have lost in either the WNBA Finals or the semifinals for four consecutive seasons.
“Our team, we talk about it, that it’s going to hurt when you care as much as we do, and they put their hearts and soul into seasons,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “When you come up short, it really hurts. That means that there was something that mattered and something special amongst that group of players when it hurts that much.”
Not even a record-breaking triple-double from Alyssa Thomas could power the Sun past the Aces.
After going down 2-0 to start the series, the Sun battled back. They never gave up the fight, winning Game 3 105-76. Sunday’s lead featured seven total lead changes and eight ties.
“We knew it was going to be a chess match. We anticipated going into tonight that they would play a small lineup a lot,” Miller said. “We talked about staying traditional against it. Trying to go big against it or us going small. Riquana got hot and made some big shots.”
For 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, that the Sun even made the Finals despite being counted out after trailing the Sky in the semifinals showcased their fight.
“This team has heart. This team has a lot of pride,” Jones said. “This team, everybody has made sacrifices for us to be able to be back here. And like Courtney said, the chips didn’t fall the way we wanted them to.
“But there’s a lot of selflessness and a lot of sacrifices to be able to have this team back together and make this run. You know, while it’s tough and it’s disappointing, we get to say that we were one of the last two teams standing and playing for a championship.”
Connecticut has become a top contender in the past five years. Since Miller was hired in 2016, the team has finished among the top three in the Eastern Conference six times, reached the Finals twice and the semifinals four times.
Miller cited that success Sunday after the loss.
“You know, when we got here there were three consecutive years of no playoffs,” he said. “We were charged with trying to rebuild something and we have had a remarkable sustained run. We’ve equaled the most playoff wins since 2016 of anyone in the league. We are one game behind the most regular season wins. So the sustained success is really special.
“But in pro sports, you want banners and we are going to keep grinding and grinding until we can try to hang a banner.”