UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- — Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones have New York back in the WNBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.
Two of the Liberty's big offseason acquisitions came up big for the Liberty to help them reach the championship round for the first time since 2002 with an 87-84 win over Connecticut on Sunday in Game 4 of the semifinals.
Jones scored 25 points, including five in the final minutes. The 6-foot-6 forward, who won an MVP in 2021 as a member of the Sun, added 15 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Liberty, who will face defending champion Las Vegas in a series that starts on Oct. 8. The two Finals teams were labelled as “super teams” coming into the season.
“I think that's the narrative everyone wanted at the start,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “I didn't particularly like the super team thing, but you know these players, they still played great. It was a process for us to get to this level now and I think it's going to be a great series.”
Stewart, who came over from Seattle in the offseason and earned her second regular season MVP award, led New York with 27 points and Betnijah Laney added 21 in the clincher of the best-of-five series. The Liberty won three in a row from the Sun after dropping the series opener in New York.
“The fact that the Liberty hasn't been to a Final since 2002 is wild,” Stewart said. “And to be able to have that and to know that we have the entire city behind us is something that is really, really special.”
MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for Connecticut. It was her first triple-double of the post-season after recording a record six during the regular season. Tiffany Hayes had 15 points and DiJonai Carrington added 14 for the Sun, who were trying to make it back to the Finals for a second consecutive season.
A 3-pointer from Stewart with 2 minutes left gave the Liberty a 77-75 lead. The New York fans chanted “MVP” as she sank two foul shots on her next trip down the court.
But DeWanna Bonner (12 points) brought the Sun to within a point with a long 3-pointer of her own.
The Sun then lost a challenge when Hayes was called for a foul with 56 seconds left. Jones sank two free throws to make it an 81-78 game. She made two more foul shots after stealing a Hayes pass and put the Liberty up five.
A 3-pointer from Tyasha Harris made it an 85-84 game with 7.6 seconds left. But Stewart sank two foul shots on the other end to seal the win as Connecticut couldn't get a final shot off.
Laney had 15 of her points in the first half, Stewart had 14 and the Liberty led by a point at the break, after eight lead changes in the first half.
Laney's first 3-pointer of the second half highlighted a 13-0 run that stretched back into the first half and gave the Liberty a 52-44 advantage.
A turnaround jumper from Stewart made it 62-51 and the Liberty led 66-58 after three periods.
Thomas and Jones tangled under the basket early in the fourth quarter and Thomas, who was bent over awkwardly on the floor, stayed down and was helped to the locker room. But she was back a few minutes later.
That play seemed to spark the Sun. A short jumper from Harris highlighted a 16-5 run that saw the Sun tie the game at 69 on a 3-pointer by Carrington.
A 3-pointer from Bonner gave the Sun the lead back at 72-71.
New York won the game at the foul line, where they were 21 of 25. The Sun made three free throws on Just eight attempts.
Sun coach, Stephanie White, called Thomas the most underrated superstar in the league and bemoaned that she was only able to take four free throws in what was a very physical game.
“I had a season that you’ve never seen in this league and probably won’t seen again unless I do it,” Thomas said. “Let’s be reasonable. Triple doubles, the most double-doubles in league history. We’re talking about league records. So for me, I have a lot to be proud of.”
New York split the four regular season meetings against the defending champion Aces, who advanced to the finals for the third time in four years, sweeping Dallas in the semifinals.
This will be New York’s fifth appearance in the Finals, but their first since 2002.
“Obviously, the goal was let’s bring in the talent and let's make a run for this,” Brondello said. “We certainly did that.”
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