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WNBA semifinals: Can Sun solve Sky in 2021 rematch?

DeWanna Bonner and the Sun have not beaten the Sky yet this season. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Connecticut Sun have advanced to the WNBA semifinals four seasons in a row – and made the finals in 2019 – but have yet to put it all together.

Over that stretch, their roster has stayed largely the same. Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones, Natisha Hiedeman and Brionna Jones have been on the team every year. DeWanna Bonner was added in 2020, and Courtney Williams returned this season after departing in a 2020 trade to Atlanta.

Last season represented perhaps the biggest blow to the Sun’s title aspirations. They earned a No. 1 seed but were upset by the No. 5 Sky, who went on to win the championship. Now, the tables are turned, and No. 3 seed Connecticut has a shot at upsetting No. 2 seed Chicago to earn a place in the finals.

“We are back where we want to be,” Sun coach Curt Miller said of the upcoming series. “I’m proud that we are going to our fourth-straight semifinal. We’ve had incredible success in the regular-season, but this group wants to take another step. And there is not one person that is going to pick us to beat Chicago.”

Miller, who said his team is going to harness an underdog mentality, is right in thinking Chicago is going to be a heavy favorite.

The Sky not only topped the Sun in the previous playoffs, but they also went 4-0 against Connecticut this season. Still, the games have been close, with Chicago winning by an average of 4.5 points each time.

Here’s a look back at those contests:

June 12: Sky 83, Sun 79

In the offseason, James Wade, who was named the WNBA’s Executive of the Year, signed Emma Meesseman and Rebekah Gardner. They both proved fruitful additions in Chicago’s first game against the Sun this season. Meesseman had 26 points on an efficient 11-for-14 shooting, with five rebounds and four assists. Gardner came off the bench to contribute 14 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 17 minutes of play.

For the Sun, Bonner led the starters with 18 points, and Brionna Jones tallied 20 points off the bench on her way to a season in which she quickly became a favorite for Sixth Player of the Year.

Statistically, the teams were relatively even – Connecticut even held a rebounding advantage – but the difference came at the free-throw line. The Sun went 5-for-9, while Chicago finished 15-for-17.

June 29: Sky 91, Sun 83

The Sun don’t shoot many 3-pointers – they rank 11th in the league – but they are generally efficient in those attempts. Their 35.4% shooting from beyond the arc ranks third in the WNBA.

In this game, though, that wasn’t the case, as they went 6-for-19 (31.6%) from the 3-point line. Chicago went 10-for-20 from long range, shooting 50%.

This game was the most lopsided of the four regular-season wins for Chicago, yet the Sky played sloppily, turning the ball over 24 times.

July 31: Sky 95, Sun 92 (OT)

The Sky managed to secure a victory even without Candace Parker, who was out with an illness, thanks to a balanced effort.

Kahleah Copper led with 27 points and Courtney Vandersloot had a double-double with 16 points and 12 assists. Allie Quigley finished with 13 points, and Azurá Stevens and Meesseman added 12 and 10, respectively.

The Sun once again struggled from long range, shooting just 26.7% and making just four 3-pointers. But they also outrebounded Chicago 41-32, and held a small turnover advantage, though neither team took care of the ball. The Sky coughed it up 20 times compared to Connecticut’s 17.

Aug. 7: Sky 94, Sun 91

Once again the Sun had more rebounds (34-26) and fewer turnovers (16-13), but once again, the Sky secured the victory – and with it, a franchise-record 25 wins.

Both teams had balanced scoring efforts, with Bonner’s 18 points leading the Sun and Vandersloot’s 20 propelling the Sky. Jonquel Jones recorded a double-double for Connecticut with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Parker did the same for Chicago. She finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Sky also shot the ball better than the Sun, making 57% of their attempts to Connecticut’s 46%.

Prediction: Chicago in 4

Those four games may have been close, but the outcomes are telling. Chicago managed to win in a variety of ways, and even once without Parker. Connecticut consistently outrebounded the Sky and forced more turnovers than they committed, but Chicago still secured victories every time. That tells us that Chicago is simply the better team.

The best-of-five WNBA semifinal series between the Sky and the Sun tips off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday.