For the first time since 2005, the Connecticut Sun will be playing in the WNBA Finals. The No. 2 overall playoff seed trounced the Los Angeles Sparks by a score of 78-56, sweeping the semifinal series three games to none.
While the Sparks technically had homecourt advantage (despite a scheduling oddity that forced the matchup to be played at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid, rather than the Staples Center), it was the Sun who played with superior energy. The game got off to a slow start — just 14-11 after one quarter — but Connecticut was able to grind out enough offense to put themselves comfortably ahead at halftime before blowing things open in the third.
Much of that offense came courtesy of point guard Jasmine Thomas. Known as a solid on-ball defender and floor general, it was Thomas’ scoring ability that took center stage on Sunday. She dropped a game-high 29 points in 31 minutes of action, burning the Sparks again and again from three-point range and running the team’s offense with a highly effective pace.
On the other end of the floor, the Sun kept the Sparks on lockdown for the entire game, holding them to just 56 points on a 32.0 percent effective field goal percentage (68.3 OFFRTG). Los Angeles struggled to manufacture any kind of offense, with Chelsea Gray remarkably quiet and supporting guards like Riquna Williams and Sydney Wiese virtually absent.
Most noticeable, though, was Candace Parker’s play — or lack thereof. The Sparks star played just over 11 largely ineffective minutes before being benched by head coach Derek Fisher.
The decision by Fisher was an interesting one. Parker saw her last minutes midway through the third quarter; shortly thereafter, the Sun’s lead ballooned to 20 and the series was all but over. Fisher and Parker had the following to say after the game:
Derek Fisher’s explanation for Candace Parker’s limited minutes pic.twitter.com/IOcrT01j8v— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) September 23, 2019
Candace Parker said she's physically and mentally okay and told reporters to ask Derek Fisher why she only played 11 minutes and 14 seconds on the Sparks 22 point elimination loss to the Connecticut Sun 78-56. #Winsidr #WNBAPlayoffs #LASparks pic.twitter.com/IMnD6vaSdZ— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) September 23, 2019
It’s just the beginning of will undoubtedly be an interesting offseason for the Sparks.
The Sun, meanwhile, are flying high. They now await the result of the Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces series, which Washington currently leads two games to one. If Vegas manages to pull off a series upset, Connecticut will maintain the ever-important homecourt advantage throughout the Finals.