Heartbreak for Connecticut Sun in Game 5 loss to Mystics in WNBA Finals
Washington — Jonquel Jones and Alyssa and Jasmine Thomas of the Connecticut Sun stood next to one another behind the cameras filming Sun head coach Curt Miller’s postgame press conference after Game 5 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night.
Jones generally wears a smile. Alyssa Thomas is quiet in public. Jasmine Thomas is one of the kindest people to ever grace the Sun locker room.
All three had their arms around one another, fighting back tears.
The Washington Mystics used one last run with 5 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game to pull away from the Sun, which had gone cold before a howling sellout crowd of 4,200 at Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Mystics 89, Sun 78.
Another bitter end to a terrific Connecticut season.
“It stings right now,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “(I’m) proud of that locker room. … (They) put themselves in an unbelievable position to win their first championship.”
The Sun have lost in all three of its WNBA Finals. Its previously losses were in 2004 and 2005.
Alyssa Thomas had 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Connecticut. Jones, who earned the second All-WNBA second team selection of her four-year career this season, added a game-high 25 points with nine rebounds.
Courtney Williams (16 points) was the Sun’s only other double-digit scorer.
It’s Washington’s first WNBA title. It used an 8-0 to turn a tie game into an 80-72 lead with 2:54 remaining.
Connecticut shot 5-of-15 (33.3-percent) in the fourth quarter. It had outshot Washington through three quarters (48.2-45.3) and led 64-62.
“I thought they got really physical with us,” Miller said. “I thought our spacing shrunk with some of the physicality and we didn't execute. And when it was all said and done, they played a better 10 minutes in that fourth quarter and deserved the championship.”
Finals MVP Emma Meesseman scored 11 of her team-high 22 in the third quarter to help the Mystics cut a nine-point deficit down to 64-62 to end the period.
Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, had 21 points and nine rebounds for Washington. Kristi Toliver had 18 points, four rebounds and four assists and Natasha Cloud added 18 points and five rebounds.
It was also the first WNBA title in four tries for Mystics head coach Mike Thibault. He previously coached the Sun for 10 seasons, including trips to the 2004 and 2005 Finals, before being fired a month after a brutal Game 3 home loss to the Indiana Fever in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
Asked if it was poetic to beat Connecticut for a title, Thibault said, “I don’t know. Like I said, if it had been a few years back when they still had players I coached and people there — there’s very few people in the organization that were there when I was there. It’s not the same feeling.
“I just wanted to win. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was (to beat for his first title). It probably would’ve felt a little bit more special if we had won (Tuesday) night in Connecticut, but that kind of went away after we (lost) and came back here.
“You know, one phrase that was given to me by somebody in the (Sun) organization at the time I got fired was, ‘I owed him a championship.’ I got mine first.’”
Delle Donne’s turnaround fadeaway bank shot put Washington ahead to stay, 74-72 with 5:10 left in the game.
Toliver followed moments later by driving the lane for a layup, prompting Miller to call timeout.
Short jumpers by Delle Donne and Meesseman, respectively, gave the Mystics an 80-72 edge with 2:54 remaining, their largest lead to that point.
“They were aggressive,” Alyssa Thomas said about Washington’s comeback. “They found something that was working and kept going back to it, and we struggled to slow it down. Then we couldn't put the ball in the hoop on the other end, and we can't let that happen.”
Jones had helped the Sun build their biggest lead of the game, 53-44, with 6:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Seventeen seconds later, Jones picked up her fourth foul as Delle Donne turned a layup into a three-point play. Jones went to the bench until the start of the fourth quarter, allowing the Mystics to take control of the interior without having to deal with the 6-foot-5 post around.
Brionna Jones subbed in for Jonquel Jones and was immediately abused by Meesseman. She scored five straight points and, in the process, got Brionna Jones to pick up three fouls as Washington closed to within 56-52 with 4:31 left in the quarter.
Washington managed to tie the game at 58 and 62, but Alyssa Thomas closed the quarter with a layup to give Connecticut a 64-62 lead.
“We know we can be back here,” Jasmine Thomas said. “It hurts right now, but when I think of what we've done; we have a lot to be proud of.”