With the Connecticut Sun defeating the Chicago Sky in come-from-behind fashion, we are guaranteed to crown a new WNBA champion at the conclusion of this 2022 season.
The Sun trailed the Sky by 11 at one point in the fourth quarter of Game 5 with the Sky only to rally back and dispatch of Chicago by a final score of 72-63.
The victory sets up a Finals clash between CT’s Keesusk and the Las Vegas Aces who defeated the Seattle Storm in four games, sending the legendary Sue Bird into retirement.
The Aces and Sun met up with each other on three occasions this season. Connecticut and Las Vegas split a pair of games at Michelob Ultra Arena closer to the start of the season. The Aces defeated the Sun 89-81 in the first contest, then Connecticut got the better of Las Vegas by a final of 97-90 in the second get-together on June 2.
As the scene shifted to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, the Aces bested the Sun 91-83 in the rubber match to win the season series 2-1.
Here are five storylines to watch out for as the Aces and Sun prepare to battle for a championship.
Curt Miller spent one season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Sparks before assuming the reins of the Sun in 2016. It is Miller’s second trip to the Finals with Connecticut as the Sun advanced to the 2019 Finals against the Washington Mystics – one the Mystics won in five games.
As for the Aces, Mark Davis signed first-year Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon to the richest contract for a coach in WNBA history. Hammon assumed the coaching position after years as an assistant under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs where she led its Summer League team to a championship.
The matchup features the last two Coaches of the Year (Miller last season, Hammon this season)
The Aces-Sun WNBA Finals contest will also see the recipients of the last three MVP awards take to the court.
A’ja Wilson claimed the 2020 MVP award for the season when the entire WNBA was sequestered in the bubble due to the pandemic. The Aces made the Finals that season but were swept by the Seattle Storm. Wilson also prevailed over Breanna Stewart for this season’s MVP award.
Speaking of that bubble, Jonquel Jones was not present for Connecticut during that 2020 season, but came back for the 2021 campaign with a vengeance as she led the Sun to the top seed in the playoffs. Jones was named the WNBA’s 2021 MVP.
Other Key Players
While the A’ja Wilson-Jonquel Jones matchup will certainly garner the lion’s share of attention, both the Aces and Sun have key players that will play major role as both teams vie for a championship.
For the Aces, they have been the beneficiary of contributions from Jackie Young and All-Star Game MVP Kelsey Plum. These playoffs, Chelsea Gray has looked like the Chelsea Gray that played a major part in lifting the Sparks to a championship in 2016 over the Minnesota Lynx.
For the Sun, they have been the beneficiary of contributions from Courtney Williams who is back in her first season in her second tenure with Connecticut. The 6-foot-2 Alyssa Thomas as well as the 6-foot-4 DeWanna Bonner have also have bolstered the Sun throughout this run.
In football, we hear often of how games and championships are won “in the trenches.” With the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun, this series could very well be won on the benches.
The Aces bench has been the team’s Achilles heel all season – and Dearica Hamby suffering a late-season injury did not exactly help Las Vegas’ cause. Meanwhile, the Sun have been praised all season long for having one of the deepest benches in the W.
Connecticut signed Odyssey Sims late in the regular season to help that bench. It also includes DiJonai Carrington, Natisha Hiedeman and Sixth Woman of the Year Brionna Jones.
The First Time
Not only will the 2022 season end in, to borrow wrestling vernacular, “And New,” it will also be the first championship for either the Aces or Sun. Connecticut has yet to win a championship in its history and the Aces have been ringless throughout its history either as the Aces, San Antonio (Silver Stars) or Utah Starzz.
The 2019 and 2020 seasons saw back-to-back season where either the Sun or Aces made it to the championship round only for Connecticut to lose to Washington in five and for Las Vegas to be swept in the bubble by Seattle.
Fittingly enough, with South Carolina claiming this year’s national championship back in April, we see the vibes translating from the current Gamecocks to UofSC’s most beloved of alums.
Aces in 5 – MVP A’ja Wilson.