Sun take Mystics the limit with a dramatic 90-86 win in Game 4 of WNBA Finals
Mohegan —Connecticut Sun Shekinna Stricklen had just gotten the ball passed to her with less than three minutes remaining in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.
The game was tied. The 8,458 fans had Mohegan Sun Arena rocking like it hasn’t since perhaps Game 2 of the 2005 WNBA Finals. And the Washington Mystics’ Kristi Toliver was flying through the air past Stricklen, having scrambled over to keep the Sun’s best 3-pointer shooter from dropping a third on her team.
Nervous? Heck, no. It was the kind of moment that every athlete dreams about.
“I knew it (was good) when it left my hand,” Stricklen smiled about her shot. “I was like ‘oh-hhhh, this is perfect.’”
Stricklen made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 23 seconds left, and Connecticut gave itself one more chance to capture its first WNBA championship with a 90-86 win to tie the best-of-five series.
Back to D.C. the series goes.
Game 5 is Thursday night at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington (8 p.m., ESPN2).
One more chance.
“It means everything, just how hard we fight; how much this means to us,” Connecticut Jasmine Thomas said about getting to play in a decisive Game 5. “We talked about this whole playoff time (about) us being disrespected and people thinking we’re just going to give up easily. And we’re not.
“We’re going to fight every single second because we deserve to win a championship.”
Sun teammate Courtney Williams chimed in, “Yes, sir.”
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut’s 40-Minute Woman, played the entire way for the third time in four playoff games. She had 17 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds.
“We took care of business,” Thomas said. “We got that win.”
Every Sun starter scored in double figures. Jonquel Jones had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Williams had 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Jasmine Thomas had 14 points and five assists, and Stricklen scored 15 with four rebounds.
Natasha Cloud had 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Washington, which got a lift from its bench from Emma Meesseman (12 points, five rebounds) and Aerial Powers (15 points).
Ariel Atkins and 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, who are both playing through back issues, scored 14 and 11, respectively, for the Mystics.
Once again, the team that won the first quarter won the game, but it wasn’t easy for Connecticut.
Alyssa Thomas scored off the opening tip for the Sun. A 3-pointer by reserve Natisha Hiedeman gave them their largest lead, 30-12, with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
Hiedeman, who scored just two over the first three games, scored six of her eight that quarter.
Washington trailed 56-40 at halftime, yet it managed to take the lead thanks to a 19-6 run that began late in the third quarter and continued into the fourth.
Meesseman scored nine during that run, finishing it with a 3-pointer that put the Mystics ahead, 77-72, with 6:51 left in the game.
“It’s been hard in this series,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “Whoever digs themselves a hole. … both teams have come back (from a double-digit deficit in every game), but it’s hard when you’re looking at the deficit we were looking at.
“The fact that we were ahead says a lot of good things, but then our execution once we got the lead was not great.”
Jasmine Thomas helped the Sun come back and tie. She made the second of two free throws and, after a Jones' layup, scored on a layup of her own to tie the game at 77 with 5:35 left.
“It is exhausting,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said about the series. “I can’t wait to have a few days off. But we’re having the time of our life right now. (There’s) nothing better.
“You dream as a little kid of being in a deciding final game. A Game 7, a Game 5, to win a world championship.
“If you grew up a basketball fan, these are the moments that you dreamed of.”