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DeWanna Bonner leads Sun to Game 1 semifinal win over defending WNBA champions

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Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller knows his team won’t be able to beat the defending WNBA champions on style points or offensive prowess alone.

To beat the Chicago Sky in a five-game series, Miller believes you can’t be afraid of making a mess.

“A lot of fluid offenses have gone from all four teams, and we know who we are,” Miller said. “We’re blue collars. We’re going to be good around the basket, we’re going to rebound and we’re going to defend our tails. But we have to make it messy.”

DeWanna Bonner had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the Sun to a 68-63 victory over Sky in Game 1 of their WNBA semifinal series on Sunday night.

Jonquel Jones had 12 points and also grabbed nine rebounds for the Sun, Alyssa Thomas had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Brionna Jones added 12 points. Jonquel Jones was 5-for-8 from the field and Brionna Jones shot 6-for-8.

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Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones (35) shoots as Chicago Sky’s Azura Stevens defends during the first half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal series on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Chicago.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

“We have so many weapons on this team,” Bonner said. “Whatever the spotlight is, it could be anybody’s night. (Jonquel Jones) landed the biggest shot of the game, probably when we were down one or two.”

Candace Parker had 19 points and 18 rebounds for Sky, and Kahleah Copper had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Chicago had a season-low 63 points and shot 35.3% for its lowest percentage in a playoff game since 2014.

“We lost some bunnies, we lost some chippers,” said Sky trainer James Wade. “A couple of times, we came out of the pick and roll and we had shots at the rim, but we didn’t hit them. We just have to hit those shots.”

The second game is Wednesday night in Chicago.

After Emma Meeseman’s 3-pointer with 2:12 remaining gave Chicago a 63-62 lead and sent the Wintrust Arena crowd into a frenzy, the Sky missed their final four shots.

Jonquel Jones scored inside 27 seconds later to put the Sun back ahead. Bonner made two free throws with 1:31 remaining to extend the lead, Connecticut got two offensive rebounds to kill some time off the clock and Bonner made a layup with 3.8 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Brionna Jones said the Sun did well executing their aggressive game plan, but another key was only committing seven fouls while physically playing. Chicago went 7 for 9 at the line.

“It’s definitely a point of emphasis,” Brionna Jones said. “We have to keep them off the free throw line.”

Connecticut outscored Chicago 20-12 in the third quarter when Natisha Hiedeman and Bonner made 3-pointers and Bonner hit a jumper to go into double figures.

Parker battled a deft pass to Copper in transition for his first basket since the first quarter to bring Chicago within four points with 8:47 remaining.

Miller said veterans like Bonner and Thomas kept the Sun’s composure as the home crowd tried to lead Chicago to victory.

“We were nervous in the fourth quarter, and our veterans calmed down and we made enough plays to win this game,” Miller said. “This is what this series against each other has really come down to, those last few minutes, over and over and over again. Tonight, we made those plays.”

Copper went 4-for-4 and went 3 for 11 points in the first half as the teams entered halftime tied at 34.

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Chicago Sky's Kahleah Copper drives to the basket past Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones during the second half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal series on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Chicago.  The Sun won 68-63.

Chicago Sky’s Kahleah Copper drives to the basket past Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones during the second half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal series on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Chicago. The Sun won 68-63.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Connecticut built an eight-point lead in the first quarter by scoring 11 points on six Chicago turnovers, but the sky went up again when Copper and Parker combined for 18 points in the first half.

Jones was 3-for-4 shooting to lead Connecticut with eight points and grabbed four rebounds and two steals in a first half that had seven lead changes and five ties.

BIG MEAT

Copper made a pair of free throws to push Chicago in front with 5:13 to go, shortly before she and Courtney Williams received double technical fouls for refusing to release a jump shot.

Stevens said that the play was indicative of the tone of the rest of the series.

“They’ve got issues with us from last year and all that, so he’s the one who wants it the most,” Stevens said. “I think playing with Kah was great. That’s the kind of series he’s going to be. Who wants it more? Who’s not going to let the ball go?”

SHOCK OF STYLE

Wade would like his team to play faster in the future, instead of being dragged into another low-scoring affair.

“I felt like we played his style,” Wade said. “They wanted us to play his slow, methodical style of play. We like to play a little more free play.”

Connecticut Sun's Courtney Williams (10) drives to the basket as Chicago Sky's Courtney Vandersloot defends during the first half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball semifinal playoff series on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Chicago.

Connecticut Sun’s Courtney Williams (10) drives to the basket as Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot defends during the first half of Game 1 of a WNBA basketball semifinal playoff series on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Chicago.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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INS COUNCIL

Chicago totaled a season-high 10 blocks in the losing effort. … Parker passed Tamika Catchings for the WNBA’s all-time No. 1 playoff defensive rebounder with 450. … Thomas passed Nykesha Sales to become his career No. 2 playoff scorer upon reaching 1,080 points. … Parker is a playoff double-double away from tying Catchings (27) for the most all-time in WNBA history. … Bonner went on to tie for sixth in Sun history in playoff rebounding with 110.

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