The WNBA Sun Arrested Finals look doomed. But the path of each team was far from that.

In many ways, the 2022 WNBA Finals, which kicks off on Sunday, is the culmination of the playoffs that predictably followed the regular season data. The match features the upper part Two teams in the league By net rating, Connecticut Sun (+9.5) and Las Vegas Aces (+7.7). It’s the league Best offensive team In aces against second best attackAnd the second best defense And the Top Apostate Team In the sun. These two people were trading the preferred situation back and forth Our computerized predictions Over the past month, too.

However, in the dramatic victories in the semi-finals, each team demonstrated the ability to win by playing differently from their usual style, stepping out of their comfort zones to defeat strong opponents – in the case of Las Vegas, Brenna Stewart, Sue Bird and Seattle Storm, and in the case of Connecticut, Candice Parker (for the third time in four years, as Sun coach Kurt Miller pointed out) and Chicago Sky. Along the way, we’ve seen a mix of familiar producers – we’re talking about a match featuring The three best players in the league In A’ja Wilson and Jonquel Jones and, uh, A’ja Wilson – but also top performers paving the way to finals guaranteed to produce a first-time WNBA champion no matter what.

Among the unexpected stars: Las Vegas goalkeeper Chelsea Gray. Simply put, it’s in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in WNBA history, Averaged 24.0 points per game with Many cold-blooded shots That dashed hopes for a storm late in Game 4 of the semi-final series. Gray, so far, just a file Hair from 60-60-90 photographic performance on its six postseason matches. 60-60-90! She beat 62.6 percent from the field, 59.5 percent from three (at high volume, too – 6.2 attempts per game) and 88.9 percent from the streak.

Gray also does this while serving as the dominant ball dealer for the Aces on point, and makes almost no mistakes in that turn either. A 41.4 assist assist ratio was combined with a 12.8 turnover ratio, even as rival coaches threw their all in Las Vegas’ win over Phoenix in the first round and Seattle in the semifinals.

“I don’t think anyone on the planet can guard it,” Seattle coach Noel Quinn said after Las Vegas clinched the finals with their fourth game victory. She was unconscious. We’ve done a lot of things in this series to try and slow it down. [If] You limit their recording, have the ability to pass and play. She’s a great player.”

“I think our team did a very good job of trying to limit her, but I think she was on her way; and when a player plays in a role like that, it’s very difficult to stop him.”

So, if Gray continues to play like she did in the playoffs so far, it probably doesn’t matter what Connecticut State does in the playoffs. Think about this: Wilson and Stewart have played like the top two regular-season MVP winners during these playoffs, yet somehow Gray has been more effective than these two generational players.

Gray has topped the legends list this postseason

2022 WNBA Playoff Leaderboard, Points Per Game

player Team Toys Play points points / play
Chelsea Gray Las Vegas Aces 6 109 144 1.321
Aja Wilson Las Vegas Aces 6 107 123 1.150
Brianna Stewart Seattle Storm 6 141 162 1.149
Jacky Young Las Vegas Aces 6 66 74 1.121
So Bird Seattle Storm 6 59 61 1.034
Joel Lloyd Seattle Storm 6 114 115 1.009
Kelsey Bloom Las Vegas Aces 6 114 113 0.991
Briona Jones Connecticut Sun 8 81 80 0.988
Kolaya copper Chicago Sky 8 136 134 0.985
Jonquil Jones Connecticut Sun 8 119 115 0.966

50 games minimum.

Source: Synergy Sports

That aces can spread both gray And the Wilson – not to mention Kelsey Bloom, who somehow ranks seventh on that list despite the slump in shooting from beyond the arc that she had her accuracy in Uncharacteristically low 28.2 percent of the depth in the playoffs, and Jacky Young High Efficiency – It makes them a very difficult team to guard. That was true even in the regular season, when Gray was just a four-time old guard in All-Stars, rather than a statistical impossibility in sneakers.

But no team is better equipped to make things difficult for Wilson and Gray than the Connecticut Sun. In front of Wilson, who finished second in the league in terms of points scored in the paint, the Sun could offer a three-headed defensive attack by Jonquil Jones, Bree Jones and Alyssa Thomas; Against Gray, they can throw endless traps and dead-end passages. Chicago averaged 42.1 points in the league lead in the regular season, but against Connecticut, it only managed 31.2 points. The Sun also managed to keep future Hall of Fame guard Courtney Vandersloot to just 9.8 points per game on a 43.5 percent shoot – 18.2 percent from three – while forcing her to make an uncharacteristic number of fouls throughout the long streak. In games 4 and 5, Vandersloot – who Help percentage leads all WNBA players Who scored at least 5000 minutes – managed 6 assists for seven turns.

The Sun worked to make the games, in Miller’s favorite phrase after the season, “messy.” And that will be in demand again, as a fast-paced game with plenty of possessions will tend to a Las Vegas team that led the league in both offensive rankings and pace in the regular season.

The more Aces you lose, the better Connecticut’s chances are (and not just because they leave points on the table). led the sun League in recovery rateby 55.7%, and in fact on it in the playoffs. The teams they sent on their way to the Finals, the Dallas Wings and The Sky, were better rebounding teams than Las Vegas, but it didn’t matter, especially in Game 4 and 5 of the Sky Series, where Connecticut State beat Parker. and Company, 82-51.

Connecticut State appears to have discovered some key aspects of their offensive lineup, particularly with Courtney Williams, who has been as dangerous an independent playmaker during these past two games as when she helped lead the Sun to the Finals in 2019. Miller, to the surprise of many, Jonquel Jones took a 3 seat :37 To go on a Game 3 loss to Sky. But few people paid attention to who replaced him with Jones, and it was Williams who seemed to have fired before – in the next two victories, she averaged 15.5 points per game when paying 65.2%with five rebounds and four assists per game, even using her underworld vertical jump to block two shots at the playoff in Game 5. (For her part, Williams told us on Tuesday’s post-match match that she credits the huge success to her new pre-game outfit. )

There is even regular season precedent for the Sun to beat the Aces in a fast-paced, fast-scoring Las Vegas style, and Williams played a key role, Scored 18 starting points in a 97-90 win Back on June 2. Sun kept Gray only 8 points in a 4-for-7 shot that day, forcing her into a four-turn as well.

That was, of course, before Gray took to the skies in the post-season. So don’t count the Sun, for whom winning the title would be a fitting culmination of a half-decade of unparalleled excellence in the WNBA. But it’s hard to block the clutch god shot – if Gray can carry on this qualifying round for the ages.

Check out the latest WNBA Predictions.

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