Breanna Stewart and the Liberty took a 2-1 series lead after defeating the Connecticut Sun, 92-81, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Friday night.
The win puts the Libs one game away from clinching a spot in the WNBA Finals. They’ll have two more chances to get a win, beginning with Game 4 on Sunday in Connecticut.
The Sun were overwhelmed early and went down 21 points to end the first quarter. The sluggish start put the team in too deep of a hole and eventually proved to be too much to come back from.
Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu started the game 9 of 12 from the field in the first quarter. Stewart and Ionescu finished the game with 25 and 16 points, respectively. The always-reliable two-way star Betnijah Laney contributed 20 points and eight rebounds.
Laney’s wide-open layup after a backdoor cut with 3:47 remaining was the final dagger in Game 3. It stretched the lead to 19 and forced Sun head coach Stephanie White to call timeout. The bucket zapped the confidence from a Sun squad that went into Mohegan Sun Arena with their heads high after getting a series split in Brooklyn.
The Sun looked unprepared to play defense Friday. They desperately needed two-way forward Rebecca Allen, who missed Game 3 with a non-COVID illness. The team announced pregame that the former Liberty star was available off the bench but Allen never stepped onto the court.
It isn’t a coincidence that the Liberty’s most fluid offensive game in the postseason occurred while Allen didn’t play for a rattled Sun team. The game started with 15 made field goals on 10 assists for the Liberty. The Libs rarely faced resistance from the perimeter, unlike the first two games of the series.
The early onslaught frustrated the home team and led to multiple outbursts on the Connecticut bench. Alyssa Thoms, who finished with 23 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, yelled at her teammates after the poor lack of effort in the first half. Then, DiJonai Carrington had to be restrained by DeWanna Bonner during a timeout in the first half.
The lopsided first quarter ended with a Stewart sequence that will embarrass Sun players in the film room.
With less than a minute remaining, Stewart contested Bonner’s layup and forced a miss. Stwart then outhustled her opponents by sprinting by three defenders to score on an easy layup assisted by Laney.
At the end of the second quarter, the Sun lessened the deficit to 14 after an 8-2 run. But the Sun allowed too many Liberty stars to get comfortable, which hasn’t happened all postseason.
Courtney Vandersloot, Stewart and Ionescu finished the first half scoring in double digits. Laney contributed eight points to start. It headlined a first half where the Libs shot 59% from the field. Vandersloot ended the game with 12 points and seven assists.
Thomas and the Sun buckled down to get within single digits in the third. They eventually trailed by 11 after three periods.
But the home team couldn’t close the gap in the fourth en route to their second loss of the series. They’ll now face elimination on their home floor against the Liberty offense that looked like the unit that dominated the regular season.
In Game 4, the Sun will look to get more from Bonner, who missed eight of her 12 shot attempts while scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who started in place of Allen, contributed 14 points and three rebounds.
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