The Dallas Wings staved off playoff elimination on Sunday, defeating the Connecticut Sun 89-79 in a wire-to-wire road victory. The win evened the first-round playoff series between Dallas and Connecticut at one game apiece and forced a series-deciding third game, which will be played in Dallas.
With their backs against the wall, the Wings put together one of their most complete games of 2022, regular season included. The sluggishness that plagued Dallas in its Game 1 series loss was nowhere to be found in Game 2 as the Wings flipped the script on the Sun, holding host Connecticut to just seven first-quarter points with superior defensive energy while also manufacturing much cleaner looks at the basket than they had gotten in the series opener with a faster pace and crisper ball movement.
Much of the Wings’ fast start can be attributed to a starting lineup change from head coach Vickie Johnson. Isabelle Harrison got the nod at center over August’s Player of the Month, Teaira McCowan, after McCowan struggled to assert herself physically against the Sun frontcourt.
The swap turned out to be just what the Wings needed. Harrison’s agility in the frontcourt was key in helping Dallas control the tempo of the game, while McCowan was able to get going against smaller Sun lineups. She finished with a stat line much more reminiscent of her strong play at the end of the 2022 regular season: 17 points, 11 rebounds (eight offense) and a highly efficient 8-for-13 field goal percentage.
Dallas was also hot from beyond the arc. The Wings knocked down 11-of-26 3-pointers, outscoring the Sun 33-12 from long range, and had several players hit two or more 3-pointers. Most notably, Kayla Thornton went 4-of-6 from distance, scoring a team-high 20 points — a far cry from Game 1, in which she attempted just two shots from the field and scored one point.
Thanks to their offensive efficiency, the Wings were able to limit the Sun’s transition offense, which is something they had trouble doing in Game 1 of the series. Connecticut, which averaged 14.8 transition possessions per game during the regular season (Synergy Sports), got just eight of them in Game 2, and it reflects in the team’s scoring numbers: Alyssa Thomas scored six points while guards Courtney Williams scored five and Natisha Hiedeman scored zero.
It goes without saying that a similar effort will be required if the Wings are to win Game 3 and the series. With this in mind, we’ll see if Dallas sticks with the same starting lineup that successfully set the tone on Sunday or go back to a bigger one to match the Sun’s size in the frontcourt. Game 3, which will decide the series, will be played on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. ET and air nationally on ESPN.