Sun and Sky meet in second straight WNBA playoff semifinal

Chicago and Connecticut are no strangers to meeting in the playoffs, having met now for three straight years.

They will face off in the WNBA playoff semifinals when the best-of-five series kicks off in Chicago on Sunday.

The teams have split the previous two meetings, with Chicago winning last year en route to the franchise’s first championship. The Sky won last season’s playoff series 3-1 en route to the championship and continued this year by going 4-0 in the regular season against Connecticut.

But those games were decided by an average of just 4.5 points.

“I think we probably got away with a few games, maybe we shouldn’t have won and we did,” said sky guard Courtney Vandersloot. So we’re not going on this show like, ‘Yeah, we beat them four times. ‘ And we’re very aware of that and we know what to expect from them. We just have to match their intensity, work really hard and play our game.”

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Connecticut, who have never won a WNBA title, are in the semifinals for the fourth straight season hoping to return to the finals for the first time since 2019, when they fell to Washington.

“This group wants to take that next step, and there’s not one person that’s going to pick us to beat Chicago,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “So we’re going to adopt the underdog mentality and do our best.”

Connecticut advanced Wednesday night with a 73-58 Game 3 win at Dallas after splitting two games with the Wings at Mohegan Sun Arena. It was a character check for the Sun, who last won a win-win playoff game in 2004.

Chicago faced two playoff games against New York and needed a Game 3 win on the road as well, beating the Liberty 90-72 to advance.

Sky center Emma Meesseman said that was not how they wanted the next series to go. Last season, Chicago won despite being the bottom seed. This year, the Sky are tied for the league’s best record with Las Vegas at 26-10, one game ahead of Connecticut, and will play three of five home games if necessary.

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“If we can avoid extra games, we want to do that,” Meesseman said. “We don’t want to wait until we have this pressure of having our backs against the wall or having the added pressure of like, we have to do this or we go home. We just want to have that real feeling, like the energy to be ready for the first game. So we just don’t want to wait, until it’s do or die.”

The series features two of the league’s top stars, Chicago’s Candace Parker and Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, who both stepped up in their playoff games.

Parker, a two-time league MVP, upped his regular-season 13.2 points to 14.3 in the first round and scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had eight assists in the deciding game.

Jones, last season’s MVP, went from 14.6 points to 16.7 points per game against the Wings. She had 11 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s decisive victory.

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