NY Liberty Advance to WNBA Finals After Thrilling Game 4 Win Over Sun
With the game on the line and looking to help her team make its first WNBA Finals appearance in 21 years, the Liberty’s Jonquel Jones was fouled while corralling an offensive rebound under the basket, surrounded by three Connecticut Sun players with 54 seconds remaining in the game. Jones calmly hit her two free throws and got a steal on the next Sun possession, hitting two more free throws to extend New York’s lead to five. Staving off a late Sun comeback, more key free throws from Betnijah Laney and Breanna Stewart gave the Liberty an 87-84 win, punching their ticket to a Finals series against the Las Vegas Aces.
“I just do my free throw routine and shoot with confidence, and I know my teammates have my back,” Jones said.
During the game, Jones set the WNBA record for most consecutive double-doubles to open a postseason with her sixth, posting a final stat line of 25 points and 15 rebounds.
“JJ worked really bloody hard to get position,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “She had a lot of people around her at different times… but JJ’s been amazing. We’ll continue to make sure we’re throwing the ball in to her. It wasn’t just the postups, but the threes and the FTs, too.”
This was also the first time in Liberty franchise history that three players scored 20+ points in a playoff game. Joining Jones was Laney with 21 points and Stewart with 27 points.
A Physical First Half
It was a fast and physical start to the game, as both teams traded baskets early on. Looking to avoid elimination, the Sun stayed with the Liberty and took a 23-19 lead to end the first. Laney got off to a hot start for the Liberty with nine points and Alyssa Thomas had eight for the Sun.
Both teams were aggressive on defense, with the Liberty starting out with man-to-man, while the Sun trapped a lot of New York’s shooters on the perimeter and forced five early turnovers.
The Sun jumped out to a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter before seven quick points from Stewart brought the Liberty back. After a block by Jones and basket from Sabrina Ionescu in the final seconds, the Liberty took a 45-44 lead into halftime.
While the Sun had hounding defense, New York outrebounded Connecticut in the first half by seven, including nine offensive rebounds—four of them from Jones, which helped the Liberty overcome an early deficit.
Rebecca Allen, who missed Game 3 due to illness, had an impact with seven first-half points and aggressive defense on Ionescu. Tiffany Hayes, who went down in the second quarter after reaggravating a left knee injury, eventually came back to the game in the third.
Liberty Taking Over
The Liberty gained their largest lead of the game in the third quarter at 11, including threes from Laney, Jones and Ionescu. Jones had nine points in the quarter and helped give the Liberty a 66-58 lead going into the fourth.
Thomas went back to the Sun locker room early in the final quarter after getting tangled up under the basket with Jones. Looking to still compete even with her loss, the Sun climbed back into the game after forcing three turnovers from the Liberty. Thomas eventually returned to the court, and a three from Dijonai Carrington tied the game at 69.
Jonquel Jones Calls Game
Both teams went back-and-forth in the final four minutes before Jones took over on the offensive side with key rebounds and free throws. The Sun made it a one-point game with 7.1 seconds to go after two threes from Tyasha Harris but two free throws from Stewart, but a full Liberty team effort on defense in the final seconds prevented the Sun from getting a three off, securing New York a Game 4 win and first Finals appearance since 2002. Thomas finished the game with 17 points while Hayes added 15.
“It’s amazing, especially knowing where we came from, from when I first got here, I’m so proud of us,” Laney said.
The Liberty’s free throw shooting proved key during the game, as they shot 21-of-25 from the line while Connecticut attempted just eight free throws. New York also outrebounded Connecticut 42-33 and had huge offensive rebounds, none bigger than Jones’s at the end of the game.
The New York Liberty bussed over 140 fans to the game at Mohegan Sun Arena, which also gave the tea. extra motivation to close out the series in an away arena filled with seafoam green.
“It’s so nice to look up and see so many New York Liberty shirts and jerseys and hearing them,” Ionescu said. “They’ve been riding with us all season long and, you know, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done so far this season without them.”
The Finals Are Set
The No. 2 Liberty are set to face the No. 1 Aces, a Finals matchup many predicted at the start of the season given the stardom on both teams. Game 1 will be on Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. in Las Vegas and shown on ABC.
“I haven’t fully processed that the Liberty haven’t been to a Finals since 2002 is wild,” Stewart said. “To be able to have that and know we’ve got the entire city behind us… I’m happy.”