With 8.1 seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 2022 WNBA Finals Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson rebounded a Courtney Williams miss. With the Aces up 78-71, nobody fouled Wilson and the clock wound down on the Connecticut Sun’s second runner-up season in four years.
“First thing I want to say is congratulations to Las Vegas, and certainly (head coach) Becky (Hammon),” said Sun head coach Curt Miller, who was Hammon’s assistant coach when she was in college at Colorado State. “We have a long, long relationship, and I know we had a lot of fun competing against each other in these Finals.
“Incredibly proud of our team and our resilience and our fight. It was a grind out there, both teams playing so hard, both teams playing so well in stretches defensively, and just incredibly proud of our effort. And we put ourselves in position to win and it became a chess match down the stretch with our big lineup versus their small lineup and they finished on an 8-0 run to end the game.
“It was a great game and great for our league.”
Connecticut’s jumbo lineup was on the floor from when Jonquel Jones checked in for Natisha Hiedeman at the 8:59 mark of the fourth quarter to when Hiedeman checked in for Brionna Jones with 1:07 remaining.
Vegas’ Riquna Williams went on an 8-2 individual run to take the score from 69-67 Sun with 2:22 remaining to 75-71 Aces with 53 seconds remaining. Her two threes during that run came while the Sun’s jumbo lineup was still on the floor. At 5-foot-7, R. Williams was the shortest player in the series and she was the hero against the jumbo lineup.
When asked why he went to the jumbo lineup, Miller said, “Obviously strategic, put your three All-Stars on the floor together. ... They are also very good defensively, those three bigs, and try to just overwhelm them at times with our size.
“And then you know, some of it was certainly the scheme, and then some of it certainly is that’s our core group. Those are who you run with. Those are who have put us in position year after year after year. We knew it was going to be a chess match. We anticipated going into tonight that they would play a small lineup a lot. We talked about staying traditional against it. Trying to go big against it or us go small. Riquna got hot and made some big shots.
“Riquna has been a long time great offensive player in this league.”
The Sun had been down 67-61 with 3:55 to go, but DeWanna Bonner was fouled on a 3-point miss and made all three free throws with 3:46 to go. The foul was a flagrant 1 on Kelsey Plum because she did not give Bonner space to land, so the Sun kept the ball after the free throws and J. Jones hit a turnaround mid-range shot from the left baseline to cut it to 67-66. Three C. Williams points later it was 69-67 Connecticut.
Alyssa Thomas finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and two blocks in defeat. She had 16 points, 15 boards, 11 helpers and two swipes in Game 3.
Alyssa Thomas is the first player in WNBA history with a triple-double in back-to-back games.— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) September 18, 2022
She now has four triple-doubles this season. No other player has more than three triple-doubles in their career.
“Alyssa was terrific and a warrior through this whole series and at times tried to put us on her back,” Miller said.
C. Williams scored a team-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals in Game 4 while J. Jones had 13 points, eight boards and two blocks, Bonner had 12 points and eight boards and B. Jones had 11 points.
Chelsea Gray, who was named Finals MVP, scored a game-high 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with six assists. Jackie Young added 13 points, eight helpers and two steals while Plum was good for 15 points, three assists and three steals, R. Williams finished with 17 points and two swipes, and Wilson managed 11 points, 14 boards, two steals and two rejections.
Vegas led 16-6 and 25-15. Connecticut tied it at 25 and took the lead at 39-37, but never led by more than four.
The Sun lost in the Finals in 2019 and lost in the semis in 2020 and 2021.