Washington Mystics’ Kristi Toliver, centre, tries to pass under pressure from Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones, left, and Natisha Hiedeman, not in picture, during the first half in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
One final game to decide the 2019 WNBA title with both the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics looking to win their first championship in the history of their respective franchises.
Game five is all set for 8pm tonight at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington DC, broadcast live on ESPN2.
After consecutive years of first round eliminations, Jones spoke on the impact of being just a win away from a championship title in her fourth season.
"We're excited to be here. We understand that we're one game away from accomplishing our dreams and accomplishing the things that we knew that we could do. I think we always knew that we could do this. I think we were in a tough situation with the single-elimination games.
"I think in a single- elimination game sometimes things don't bounce your way, things don't go your way, and so you lose one game and you're out. Well, we knew we were a team that were able to do this, and we're not shocked to be here," Jones said.
"Yeah, I mean, it means a lot. We were the kids in the driveway, like coach was saying, shooting up shots and saying it's a game - we were saying it was Game 7, in this case it's a Game 5. So it means a lot.
"We understand that we just have a lot of work to do, but at the end of the day, it's really good to just sit in the moment and realise where you are and then worry about that when the game day comes, as well. It's awesome."
Jones is averaging 17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game throughout the series thus far. She had doubles doubles in both wins for the Sun and rebounded from a series low nine points and nine rebounds in game four.
"I think I had to look within myself. I felt like in the last game, Meesseman was able to get straight line drives against me and it was very disappointing, especially going back and watching it. So I just wanted to challenge myself in that way. She's a great three-point shooter but I think I can contest and be able to keep it in front of me. Then all together, us as a team had a mindset just to play tough defense. We knew at the end of the day it would come down to a stop, it would come down to us being physical and getting that. So I think we did really well on the defensive side, and that's why we won the game," Jones said, "I am a dog, but I feel like it's my job to just go in there and change the game with my rebounds, being physical inside the post. I felt like the last game they were able to keep me off the boards because they were holding me down.
So I just had to shove back. I was waiting on the refs to call something and they weren't calling, so I had to get physical, too, and that's how it is."
Neither team has been able to string together consecutive wins in the series thus far. The Mystics won game one 95-86 when Jones finished with just 12 points and six rebounds. The Sun rebounded in game two behind Jones' historic 32 points and 18 rebounds in a 99-87 win. The series returned to Connecticut for game three and the Mystics won 94-81. Jones finished with nine points and nine rebounds. In a 90-86 game four win for the Sun, Jones finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Sun head coach Curt Miller said the deciding factor continues to be his team finding a way to keep Jones involved.
"Yeah, we went stretches without her touching it, which was frustrating, but her activity never stopped. I thought she was really active around the glass, even when she wasn't touching. I thought she screened better tonight, and then we got her touches when we needed in the fourth quarter to get a rim run after the amount of minutes that she plays, and how much physicality she has to handle and go through," he said, "A big turnaround late. We got in the middle of the floor and got her more touches down the stretch, and I think it was really, really important,
since we went stretches at times without her getting touches. She's still so important. It's not always shot attempts. It's being able to get her in actions."
With the short turnaround between games, Miller said the work continued almost immediately following the celebration of the game four win to prepare for the most important game of their careers.
"The coaching staff will watch hours and hours of film before we take our next into film session tomorrow when we land. There's things to show. There's things where we have slippage. There's things where they attacked differently tonight than they have in some of the other games. Same with us. So there's still a lot of coaching and trying to show your players that," he said, "But ultimately when the ball tips up on Thursday, it's going to be who stays true to themselves, who imposes their will on their style and their system, and who plays with more energy. But it is exhausting. You know, I can't wait to have a few days off. But we're having the time of our life right now. Nothing better. You dream as a little kid being in a deciding final game, a Game 7, a Game 5 of a series to win a world championship. If you grew up a basketball fan, these are the moments that you dreamed of."
Players from both sides have embraced the challenge of a single game to define their seasons.
Man, it feels real good. It's what we've been working all season for. Everybody was counting us out, but we know what we can do. We've known what we can do. So now we're here and now we've got to get one in DC," Sun guard Courtney Williams said, "It's all about adjustments. You know this last game it's going to be huge. I know both teams are probably going to watch video, see what hurt each other, and for us we have to have a better third quarter.
The Mystics Natasha Cloud said: This will be a battle, plain and simple, preparing for a battle. We're both preparing to win a championship. It's do or die time. That's how they played to push it to game five. That's what they did. Now our season is on the line too. But if you ask me, I'll take our team 10 times out of 10. I expect for us to be ready to play in the first half. We weren't ready on either end of the floor. We got down 18 and had to dig ourselves back when we decided to play in the second half. That's not who we are, so we just have to figure out how we can get back to who we were in game one and game three.