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Wings vs Sun Preview: Who Wants It More?

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By: Meera Murali (WingsLead) and Kayla Dos Santos (SunLead)

The Dallas Wings and Connecticut Sun begin their quest for the 2022 WNBA championship this Thursday at 8:00 PM ET. Both teams poured blood, sweat, and tears into clinching their playoff positions, but how did they get there? And, most importantly, which team is most likely to move onto the second round?

The Wings’ Long Road to the Playoffs

The Wings’ 2022 season was a roller coaster, to say the least. The team went undefeated in preseason and started the season on a 5-2 run. However, things soon turned sour. Dallas went 1-6 in the following 7 games and dropped to a 6-8 record.

Dallas was forced to deal with several key injuries throughout this time as well. A knee injury sidelined star forward Satou Sabally for seven games. Soon after recovering, she suffered an ankle injury that sidelined her for another 13. It’s highly likely the Wings would have been a top team in the league this season had the 2021 All-Star stayed injury-free.

With all of these factors considered, one might wonder how the Wings managed to clinch the 6th seed at all. The answer lies in the Wings’ five game win streak, where center Teaira McCowan put up a double-double nearly every single night. This stretch of games fueled the hopes of fans, coaches, and players alike. The league awarded McCowan and coach Vickie Johnson for the team’s impressive performance with Player and Coach of the Month honors, respectively.

A Common Theme for the Sun

It was another tumultuous season for the Sun. Once again, they were forced to “pivot,” as Head Coach Curt Miller calls it. Captain and point guard Jasmine Thomas suffered a season ending knee injury early on in the season. This caused them to do some unconventional things to their lineup, like playing power forward, Alyssa Thomas, at point guard from time to time. Last year’s league MVP, Jonquel Jones, missed three games due to health and safety protocols. Miller also missed time on the sidelines due to health and safety protocols, as well as missing time due to the unfortunate passing of his mother.

Despite all that, the Sun fought their way to the three seed. They ended the season 9-2 in their final 11 games. The only losses coming to the Chicago Sky, the two seed in these playoffs. Last year, the Sun ended the season on a 14 game win streak, not counting the Commissioner’s Cup loss. When asked to compare how the team feels heading into the playoffs this year compared to last year, Miller said much like last year, the team is happy with where they’re at, but they aren’t satisfied.  

“Unlike last year where we had an unbelievable regular season and we were expected to win it, this year, maybe some of that external pressure is a little bit lower, the expectations are a little bit lower, and we’re going to use that to our advantage.”

Wings vs Sun: Who does the chalk favor? 

A Connecticut Sun-Dallas Wings series is an intriguing first round matchup for fans. Even though the chalk favors the Sun, the Wings actually won the regular season series 2-1. It’s important to note that the Wings will be without superstar, Arike Ogunbowale, who the team announced will miss at least the first round, after undergoing surgery to repair a pelvic injury.

A recent common discussion among WNBA twitter revolves around whether or not the Wings are better without Ogunbowale. Even if you think that’s true, this is a matchup that Ogunbowale could thrive in, considering the Sun have a history of struggling to contain explosive perimeter players. Miller referred to the Wings as one of the best one-on-one teams in the league.

Additionally, it’s still uncertain whether Sabally, who has been out since July 14th with an ankle injury, will play in Thursday’s game or not. According to Wings head coach Vickie Johnson, “the possibility is likely that she will play on Thursday,” but the team “will see how she feels in the morning” before a decision is made. She averaged 11/5/2 on 40% shooting, though she played just 11 games for the team. Sabally’s contributions on both offense and defense will be of huge help to this Wings team if they want any chance of advancing to the second round.

Keys to Success for the Wings

The Wings will look to Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray to lead the offense and sink threes in Ogunbowale’s absence. And with DPOY candidate AT in the paint, that may prove to be quite the challenge. Fellow DPOY candidate Gray will have to hold the fort down for Dallas on defense as well. She’ll be going up against powerhouses like Jonquel and Brianna Jones in the paint on both ends of the floor. Dallas is #1 in the league in free throw attempts, yet #11 in FT%. The team is clearly capable of getting to the line, but they must convert on those attempts to reap any benefit.

Facing a powerhouse team like the Sun is no easy task, but Coach VJ is confident in the team’s abilities. Johnson stated, “The best thing about our team now is the last eight games we have been playing playoff basketball. We have been playing at a high level offensively and defensively, so now we just have to carry it over.”

Dallas has certainly been playing at an elite level over this last stretch of games. However, keeping that momentum against a much tougher opponent will require extra effort and determination from everyone within the Wings organization.

Keys to the Series for the Sun

The Sun front court has shined all season. It’ll have to do the same in this series with the emergence of Teaira McCowan. The battle between her and the Joneses, Jonquel and Brionna, down low should be a good one. Miller also highlighted limiting three-point attempts as an emphasis as well.

The Wings have players with the ability to shoot the lights out, despite only shooting 34.3% from three as a team on the season, according to Her Hoops Stats. Mabrey comes to mind and Gray as well, who’s shooting 40.8% from long range, on 4.8 attempts per game.

No matter the outcome, this series is sure to have fans of the W on the edge of their seats. The Wings, a team that struggled throughout the season but are coming off of an elite stretch of games, versus the Sun, a top team loaded with talent that was able to put together an extraordinary season, matching up in a best-of-3. Only one team will claim victory and advance to the next round. Who will it be? We’re about to find out.

About Meera Murali

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