WASHINGTON — The WNBA will crown a first-time champion Thursday night when the Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics play the decisive Game 5 of the Finals.
It’s a series that has had its share of drama. There is an injured superstar playing in pain, a head coach facing the franchise he led for a decade and team of visitors fueled by what they consider the disrespect of being called “role players.”
“We’re having the time of our life right now,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said Tuesday after a 90-86 win sent the series back to Washington. “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.”
Washington is playing in its second consecutive Finals after being swept by Seattle a year ago. Connecticut hasn’t been to the championship series since back-to-back appearances in 2004 and 2005 under Mike Thibault, who is now the Mystics coach.
For Miller’s Sun, Tuesday almost became a nightmare. Connecticut jumped out to a 32-17 lead after one quarter and led by 16 points at the half. But Washington turned things around with a 28-12 third quarter and led in the fourth quarter, before failing to score over the final two minutes.
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“It’s been hard in this series,” Thibault said. “Whoever digs themselves a hole, every team has come back in this series, both teams have come back. But it’s hard when you’re looking at the deficit we were looking at. I think it was 18 at one point, and the fact that we were ahead says a lot of good things, but then our execution once we got the lead was not great.”
Washington’s Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA MVP, has been playing with a herniated disk in her back.
The 6-foot-5 forward, who averaged 21.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in the Mystics’ first five playoff games, left her team’s Game 2 loss early in the first quarter without scoring a point. She put up 13 points in a Game 3 win and 11 in Tuesday’s loss.
“It felt a little better today, so hopefully Thursday it will be even better,” she said.
Pat Eaton-Robb is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/WNBA-Finals-comes-down-to-a-decisive-Game-5-in-14505324.php.