The Connecticut Sun survived on Tuesday night, keeping their season going with a dramatic 90-86 victory over the Washington Mystics in Game 4 of the 2019 WNBA Finals. Early on, it appeared they would coast to a comfortable victory, building an 18-point lead in the first half. The Mystics wouldn’t give up, though, and came storming back in the third quarter to tie the game heading into the fourth. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair that went down to the final few possessions, where the Sun made just enough plays to get the win. Now, the series is all tied up at 2-2, and will head back to Washington on Thursday night for a winner-take-all Game 5. 

Jonquel Jones led the Sun in the scoring department, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but Alyssa Thomas was their engine in this game, going for 17 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists in a typical all-around performance. Jasmine Thomas, Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen all scored in double figures as well, combining for 45 points. 

Here are a few key takeaways from the Sun’s clutch win:

Thomas doesn’t let Sun lose

Alyssa Thomas was relentless on Tuesday night, putting in yet another masterful performance for the Sun. She set the tone literally right from the opening tip, grabbing the loose ball after Jonquel Jones won the jump, and driving in for a layup. From there, she went off, dishing out seven assists in the first quarter alone to help the Sun jump out to a 15-point lead at the end of the opening period. 

By the time the final buzzer sounded, she had filled up the box score yet again, registering 17 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists. Even though she wasn’t super efficient in terms of her finishing inside, it didn’t matter because her passing was on point. When her teammates shot directly off a Thomas pass, they were 11-of-15 for 26 points, per SportsCenter. 

Plus, even if Thomas wasn’t efficient from the field, she was nearly perfect from the free throw line. Due to two torn labrums in her shoulders, she can’t lift her arms above her head for a normal shot. As a result, she shot just 60-of-121 from the line in the regular season. But in Game 4 she was clutch, knocking down 9-of-10 free throws in a game the Sun won by just four points. 

As was the case just about every night this season, there was no way the Sun win this game without Thomas. 

Sun finally come up clutch in the playoffs

In each of the past two seasons, the Sun finished with the No. 4 overall seed, which meant they got a bye to the second round of the playoffs, but were still forced to play a single-elimination game. Each time, they were defeated at home by Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury. In 2017, they were outscored by five points in the fourth quarter in a game they lost by five. In 2018, they were outscored by nine points in the fourth quarter in a game they lost by 10. They were young, they were inexperienced and they weren’t able to handle the moment against a certified killer in Taurasi. 

Once again facing elimination in Game 4 on Tuesday night, they flipped the script, outscoring the Mystics by four points in the fourth quarter of a game they won by four. This was arguably the biggest game in franchise history, and certainly the biggest game for this current iteration of the Sun, and they delivered. They took a huge body blow from the Mystics in the third quarter, and nearly fell apart once again, but recovering from that only made their win more impressive. This time, when they needed to make plays down the stretch, they made them. Jonquel Jones delivered buckets inside, Jasmine Thomas and Shekinna Stricklen hit some clutch 3s and they came up clutch at the free throw line. 

In case there was still any doubt, the Sun are a different team this season. 

First quarter proves crucial once again

In the first three games of this series, the team that has won the first quarter has gone on to win the game. Making that stat even more interesting, is that the team that had lost the first quarter in each of the first three games had scored exactly 17 points. 

  • Game 1: Mystics win first quarter, 30-17, win game, 95-86 
  • Game 2: Sun win first quarter, 29-17, win game, 99-87
  • Game 3: Mystics win first quarter, 32-17, win game, 94-81 

So surely the lesson to be taken from that is don’t lose the first quarter, and definitely don’t score 17 points while doing so. Unfortunately for the Mystics, they weren’t paying attention. Because wouldn’t you know it, the Sun won the first quarter of Game 4, 32-17. And, as you already know, went on to win the game, 90-86

The 17-point aspect of this is obviously just a weird coincidence, but the overarching theme is not. Getting off to a great start is important in any game, but especially in the Finals, and the team that has come out ready to play has gone on to win every single game. 

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