UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces are both seeking their first title in franchise history in the 2022 WNBA Finals. But the Sun's DeWanna Bonner is looking for her third championship, which would come at a very different time and place in her life.
"You do have to take time to take it all in," Bonner said of her third trip to the WNBA Finals, the first two ending in titles with the Phoenix Mercury in 2009 and 2014. "Winning a championship my first year in the league, I didn't realize how rare it was to get back here. I think that's what I've stressed to this team: You do have to try to enjoy the moment."
Bonner and the Sun did just that in a 105-76 victory over Las Vegas in Game 3 on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Connecticut will try to extend the series when the Sun host the Aces on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) for Game 4.
For the Sun to again avoid elimination, Bonner almost certainly will need to have a lot to do with it. She struggled offensively in the first two games of the Finals, going 1-of-9 from the field in each for a combined five points. Thursday she was 8-of-15 shooting and had 18 points. She also was especially active on the defensive end, including sharing the responsibility of guarding red-hot Aces guard Chelsea Gray.
"She's hard on herself, and she's not going to let herself continue to be in a shooting slump like that," said Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, who had a triple-double Thursday. "Once she had one shot go down the other night, we knew it was going to be a long night for the other team."
It was, and it wasn't totally unexpected by Aces coach Becky Hammon.
"When you've won two in a row and then you're going to the other team's place to try to close it out, there's just a force they bring," Hammon said. "It's hard to meet that with an equal amount of force. You're bringing in a group that is pretty happy with how they've played vs. a group that is ticked off."
And Bonner's impact was huge in raising the Sun's level of play overall. Bonner, who turned 35 last month, is the oldest player in the Finals this year, and one of two who have won a WNBA title; Gray won a championship with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.
Phoenix selected Bonner at No. 5 in the 2009 draft, a successful class highlighted by top pick Angel McCoughtry. The 6-foot-4 Bonner came out of Auburn with some observers thinking her slight build would be a problem at the pro level, but it wasn't. In 13 seasons -- she sat out 2017 after having twin daughters -- Bonner has averaged 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Plus, she has guarded several of the league's best players, especially at the small forward/wing position.
"She doesn't have to get up into some people like other defenders, because she can space and gap people and then still use her length when they go to shoot," Sun coach Curt Miller said. "She can switch on the post players. She can rebound well. So she's so valuable defensively. When she has the energy and plays with tempo, she can be so disruptive."
Bonner, who joined the Sun in 2020, has a fierce competitive streak that might not always be obvious with her self-effacing and humorous personality. She said getting older means, "I'm a firm believer in ice baths now," but Bonner is appreciative that her experience has helped make her a better teammate.
"You do have those tough nights," Bonner said. "But we have such a great group, a hungry group that is always willing to learn. This year is probably the most fun I have had with a team, 13 years into my career. To be at that point and still loving it is a blessing."