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Offensive rebounding, outside shooting keep Wings alive against Sun, force Game 3

After a series-opening blowout loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Dallas Wings roared back to even the series at one game apiece. Dallas was buoyed throughout the game by its 3-point shooting, though a change to the team’s starting center also paid dividends.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Dallas Wings v Connecticut Sun
Dallas Wings center No. 20 Isabelle Harrison was inserted into the team’s starting lineup ahead of Game 2, and it turned out to be an effective adjustment.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings staved off playoff elimination on Sunday, defeating the Connecticut Sun 89-79 in a wire-to-wire road victory. The win evened the first-round playoff series between Dallas and Connecticut at one game apiece and forced a series-deciding third game, which will be played in Dallas.

With their backs against the wall, the Wings put together one of their most complete games of 2022, regular season included. The sluggishness that plagued Dallas in its Game 1 series loss was nowhere to be found in Game 2 as the Wings flipped the script on the Sun, holding host Connecticut to just seven first-quarter points with superior defensive energy while also manufacturing much cleaner looks at the basket than they had gotten in the series opener with a faster pace and crisper ball movement.

Much of the Wings’ fast start can be attributed to a starting lineup change from head coach Vickie Johnson. Isabelle Harrison got the nod at center over August’s Player of the Month, Teaira McCowan, after McCowan struggled to assert herself physically against the Sun frontcourt.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Dallas Wings v Connecticut Sun
Teaira McCowan’s move to the bench for Game 2 proved beneficial for both her and the Wings as a team.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The swap turned out to be just what the Wings needed. Harrison’s agility in the frontcourt was key in helping Dallas control the tempo of the game, while McCowan was able to get going against smaller Sun lineups. She finished with a stat line much more reminiscent of her strong play at the end of the 2022 regular season: 17 points, 11 rebounds (eight offense) and a highly efficient 8-for-13 field goal percentage.

Dallas was also hot from beyond the arc. The Wings knocked down 11-of-26 3-pointers, outscoring the Sun 33-12 from long range, and had several players hit two or more 3-pointers. Most notably, Kayla Thornton went 4-of-6 from distance, scoring a team-high 20 points — a far cry from Game 1, in which she attempted just two shots from the field and scored one point.

Thanks to their offensive efficiency, the Wings were able to limit the Sun’s transition offense, which is something they had trouble doing in Game 1 of the series. Connecticut, which averaged 14.8 transition possessions per game during the regular season (Synergy Sports), got just eight of them in Game 2, and it reflects in the team’s scoring numbers: Alyssa Thomas scored six points while guards Courtney Williams scored five and Natisha Hiedeman scored zero.

It goes without saying that a similar effort will be required if the Wings are to win Game 3 and the series. With this in mind, we’ll see if Dallas sticks with the same starting lineup that successfully set the tone on Sunday or go back to a bigger one to match the Sun’s size in the frontcourt. Game 3, which will decide the series, will be played on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. ET and air nationally on ESPN.