The Wings Crushed The Sun To Win Their First Playoff Game Since 2009

After Game 1, it seemed like the Connecticut Sun would cruise to the second round after a 25-point win over the Wings in which Dallas, who entered the series without their top-scorer in Arike Ogunbowale, looked overmatched and overwhelmed by the Sun’s defense.

However, the script was flipped in Game 2, as Dallas was the team that came out playing stifling defense, taking a 22-7 lead after the first quarter and never relinquishing that advantage. The Wings would go on to a 89-79 win that looks tighter than the game was for most of the afternoon, dominating the Sun on both ends to force a decisive Game 3 in Dallas, where the 6-seeded Wings will have a chance to advance to the semifinals on their home floor.

Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray got things started for the Wings, as they took on the challenge of having to create more in Ogunbowale’s absence and brought the pressure to the Connecticut defense rather than the other way around.

While the Sun would settle in a bit in the second quarter, the Wings continued to maintain their lead thanks to their improved pace, pushing the ball in transition to avoid having to go at the Sun halfcourt defense every time down, like this Veronica Burton to Kayla Thornton push off a Connecticut miss.

That theme continued in the third, as Thornton continued to run hard off changes of possession, with the Sun not having any answers for the Wings going to a small ball lineup that applied more pressure on both ends of the floor.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Dallas held an 80-50 lead before a 22-2 run by the Sun made things briefly interesting and forced the Wings to put some starters back in the game for the final two minutes to close things out. Dallas was led by Thornton’s 20-point outburst, but she wasn’t alone as Gray had 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals, Mabrey had 14 points and six rebounds, and Teaira McCowan added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. It was an impressive performance and one would expect the smaller lineup will be back for Game 3 after the success they had playing with tempo in this one, with Dallas finally breaking its playoff win drought with its first in 13 years (back when the team was the Detroit Shock).

For the Sun, they’ll need to find ways to punish the Wings better for going small, namely crashing the offensive boards more effectively to limit those runout opportunities. Handling the ball pressure of Dallas will be vital as well, as eight of their ten turnovers were live-ball varieties on Wings steals, leading to more runout chances to avoid Connecticut’s set defense.