Sky

Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky Brace For Climactic Finale

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BY KAYLA DOS SANTOS AND JEFFREY NEWHOLM

“If a man’s [or a woman’s] successes should be separated from his failures, man should be banished from the Earth.”

Has anyone discovered a more accurate insight than Nikola Tesla’s observation about the human condition? Sure, Las Vegas bamboozled Phonix in a sweep. But Connecticut and Chicago, two franchises with the same pride as the Aces, faced the slings and arrows of defeat twice in these playoffs. Yet they still triumphed in epic first-round series and traded victories through four games in the semifinals.

Like Tesla himself, the WNBA semifinals consist of numerous contradictions. And it is only by examining both the Sky’s and Sun’s situations that one can appreciate the broader picture.

Sky Falls

“I mean, I guess you can call it a rivalry; I respect that.”

Hold up. Did Sky coach James Wade, before the critical game four showdown against the fearsome Sun, dismiss the notion of a rivalry with an “I guess?”

One must understand that coaches don’t examine games in the same manner as fans. What makes being a spectator so great (especially when listening on the radio) is the theater of one’s mind. We tell little stories about each play, such as: “Slooty [Courtney Vandersloot] just gave her Sky a momentum boost.” “Quigs [Allie Quigley] eclipsed the Sun with a three.”

However, one should defer to Wade, the 2022 WNBA executive of the year, about fretting over any specific matchup and situation. Is the WNBA a game of passion? Of course! But a player cannot become a prisoner of the moment. The river of time may run to nowhere, but it’s still a worthwhile ride, and it won’t do to fall off the raft after a tumultuous turn.

One fact Wade won’t need to guess is where the series will head after a disastrous loss. Tonight in Chicago, at brilliant Wintrust Arena, the Sky play towards their third-ever and second straight Finals appearance.

And while Wade doesn’t believe in rivalries, the Sky needs to bring the intensity of one to fulfill a city’s championship hunger.

A Pondering Parker

While Chicago somewhat contended in Wade’s first two years as head coach, Candace Parker’s arrival proved the essential ingredient for the Sky’s deep dish success. Parker dazzled in the series’ first two games, although in a losing effort in the opener. And while she only shot three of nine in the failed Uncasville closeout, consider her game score of -12 in a contest Connecticut won 104-80; the blame shouldn’t fall on her.

Parker’s heartbeat shaded the Sun’s rays completely. The issue in game four was no one woman’s or coach’s failure but a systematic lack of effort.

The Sky played a regular-season effort in what should have been a 100% hustle to prevent a winner-take-all finale, where anything can happen. Remember that Parker twice failed to wrap up Finals series while up 2-1. The first shortcoming led to a nearly-traumatizing close call in Minneapolis, and the second resulted in a Maya Moore devastation of Parker’s Sparks.

So history repeated Tuesday. But will Parker again race, defeated, to the locker room, or will her teammates leapfrog to the Finals on the strength of the passionate Volunteer’s shoulders?

Every Story Has An End

The band Kansas once croaked that “nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky.” While one may need to ask NASA about the Earth’s atmosphere, Kansas certainly is correct about Chicago’s best pro basketball team.

With Vandersloot and Quigley’s contracts both finished after 2022 and numerous rumors circling around a Parker retirement, this season may be the Sky’s only chance to join the Bulls as repeat inspirations in a tremendously multicultural city.

Sky Lead concludes with a [spoiler-free] remembrance of Stephen King’s dismissive note in the final chapter of his massive Dark Tower anthology. Isn’t the joy in the process of the journey? The means to reach the ultimate goal, not when (or even if) one reaches it?

Tonight, Chicago disagrees. There’s no guessing about the importance of what could be the last breath of a dynasty decades in the making but in peril of vanishing in an instant.

Sun Rises A Ray Ahead

“So much for messy.”

That was Sun head coach Curt Miller’s first statement following Tuesday night’s dominant performance against the Chicago Sky. Miller later clarified that the team’s mantra of making the game “messy” doesn’t necessarily mean they want it to be messy on the offensive end. Confused on the offensive end, it was not. The Sun stole a secret from the champion’s scroll with beautiful passing and shot-making. For whatever reason, the Sky fell a step behind from the opening tip, and the Sun took advantage.

Specifically, Courtney Williams capitalized. She recorded 19 points, four rebounds (two offensive), and three assists. Sun fans have been waiting for a signature CW performance all playoffs, and it came at a great time. Considering how dominant the front court of the Sun is game in and game out, players like Williams and DeWanna Bonner are somewhat of an X-factor. WNBA Lead asked Miller about this after the game.

“When we get great games for DeWanna or Courtney, it gives us great opportunity to pull off wins.”

It can’t just be frontcourt or bust for the Sun. Playing against a similarly dominant frontcourt team like the Sky, someone else has to show up. Establishing Bonner, Williams, or both early in game five will be huge for the Sun.

Return of Game 5 Meesseman?

Don’t look now, Sun fans, but Connecticut will again need to beat Emma Meesseman in a win-or-go-home game-five. We don’t need to discuss how that worked out for them last time.

Between her and Candace Parker, Chicago has big-moment players. In almost every loss to the Sky this season, the Sun wavered in the final minutes when the games were in their grasp. With players like Meesseman and Parker on the court, James Wade has to feel good about his team’s composure should the game be close in the final minutes. This gives the Sky a significant edge.

Is It Make or Break Time for Miller?

This offseason has many questions for the Sun, starting at the top. Many people are speculating what another pre-Finals playoff loss would mean for Miller. It seems he might be wondering the same thing.

There’s been a lot of talk about Connecticut’s championship window. Despite it being open for years, they haven’t been able to cross the finish line. Miller was asked about his team’s window.

“We know championship windows close. And we have a veteran crew that knows that our window’s open right now, but it’s not gonna be open forever. We’ve been to four straight semifinals. We’ve been really close … You’re not always in windows with championship-caliber teams. We feel like we have one.”

After losing the semifinals three years in a row, getting over that hump could play a role in whether or not Miller returns.

About Kayla Dos Santos

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