Chicago and Connecticut are no strangers to meeting in the postseason, having met now for three straight years.
They'll face each other in the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs when the best-of-five series tips off on Sunday in Chicago.
The teams have split the previous two meetings, with Chicago winning last year en route to the franchise's first championship. The Sky won last season's playoff series 3-1 on their way to the championship and followed that up this year by going 4-0 during the regular season against Connecticut.
But those games were decided by an average of just 4.5 points.
“I think we probably snuck away with a couple games maybe we shouldn’t have won and we did," Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot said. So, we’re not going into this series like, 'Yeah, we beat them four times.' And we're very aware of that and we know what to expect from them. We just have to match their intensity, work really hard and play our game.”
Connecticut, which has never won a WNBA title, is in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season hoping to return to the Finals for the first time since 2019, when it fell to Washington.
“This group wants to take another step, and there’s not one person that’s going to pick us to beat Chicago,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “So we’re going to go with the underdog mentality and give it our best shot.”
Connecticut advanced Wednesday night with a 73-58 Game 3 victory at Dallas after splitting two games with the Wings at the Mohegan Sun arena. It was a character-check for the Sun, which last won a winner-take-all playoff game in 2004.
Chicago faced two elimination games against New York and also needed a Game 3 win on the road, beating the Liberty 90-72 to advance.
Sky center Emma Meesseman said that's not the way they want the next series to play out. Last season, Chicago won despite being the lower seed. This year, the Sky are tied for the league’s best record with Las Vegas at 26-10, a game ahead of Connecticut, and will have three of the five games at home, if needed.
“If we can avoid the extra games, we want to do it,” Meesseman said. “We don’t want to wait until we have that pressure of having our backs against the wall or having the extra pressure of like, we have to do it or we go home. We just want to have that actual feeling, like the energy to be ready from the first game. So we just don’t want to wait, until it's do or die."
The series features two of the league's top stars in Chicago's Candace Parker and Connecticut's Jonquel Jones, who have both stepped up their games in the postseason.
Parker, a two-time league MVP, raised her scoring from 13.2 points in the regular season to 14.3 in the first round and scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had eight assists in the deciding game.
Jones, last season's MVP, went from 14.6 points to 16.7 points per game against the Wings. She had a 11 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's series-clinching win.
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