Connecticut Sun fall seconds short of a return to the Finals

The sun sets on Connecticut's season

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Connecticut Sun vs. Las Vegas Aces - Game Five PALMETTO, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: DeWanna Bonner #24 of the Connecticut Sun shoots the ball against the Las Vegas Aces in Game Five of the Semifinals of the 2020 WNBA Playoffs on September 29, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

“A lot of disappointment, a lot of hurt, but a lot of people-- I can say all of us are pretty proud of what we've done from being here in this bubble away from their families, away from everybody, the way we competed, the way we started 0-5, everybody was just proud of the season,” DeWanna Bonner said, reflecting on the team’s reaction in the locker room after the Connecticut Sun’s 66-63 loss to the Las Vegas Aces in Game 5 of the semifinals.

She continued, “Unfortunately, we came up short and in the semifinals, but everybody was pretty proud of it, a couple of tears were shed but I think that was just more so the initial shock and hurt of us losing, but I think everybody walked out with their head pretty high.”

The Sun had a dominant first half against Las Vegas but struggled to make shots in the second half, scoring just 18 points.

“You credit their defense a little bit they continue to congest us, [we] struggled at times on the defensive glass so we couldn't get out and run, as well as we did in the first quarter. So it was grinding to a halt and you shoot under 25% for the half, I don't care what level you coach at you don't win a lot of games when you shoot under 25% for a half,” said head coach Curt Miller.

After the Sun struggled to make shots in the final minutes, the game came down to one play. Connecticut had the ball down three with 13.4 seconds left.

“We knew potentially that they would switch the screen and get a point guard on DeWanna [Bonner] thought we could run into a secondary action, it didn't happen. But DeWanna on a five-eight point guard at six-four. We thought she had the opportunity to potentially get the shot off over her,” Miller said.

Bonner noted that though the Aces played good defense, the outcome could have been changed in numerous plays before the final one.

The team was full of emotion and Miller repeatedly referenced his feelings towards the loss as “raw”.

“We truly believe in our minds and could win a championship with that defense that we have in the locker room, our offense has been inconsistent, it's been chunky at times like tonight in the second half, unfortunately,” said Miller.

He continued saying, “Our team is hurting tonight. They were really close again they think they could have won a championship. And we all look ourselves in the mirror [and think] where could we have stolen just a couple more points?”

Overall, Miller and his players had a sense of pride after the game.

He was impressed with his team both on and off the court this season, saying, “Their togetherness, their toughness, their leadership to watch that team come together after an 0-5 start, a 1-6 start … And honestly, that locker room thinks they could have won a championship. We believe that much in our defense and so it's heartbreaking for them. But so proud of how far they've come. But what is even more special is what you guys don't get to see is how close they got off the court nine players, again, with us less than two full seasons starting the year, and watching how close that they got. It's pretty remarkable, and I'm proud of them.”

Alyssa Thomas acknowledged the improbability of what the team accomplished, saying, “I think we were picked to finish 10th and, we made it to the semis -- almost to the finals so we have a lot to be proud of. We got a completely different team from last year and still did well. So, this team, it's only up from here.”

Jasmine Thomas echoed her thoughts saying, “Nobody ever thought we'd make it this far. We came together in a lot of ways, we grew a lot as a team both on and off the court so I'm super impressed with our team.”

The Sun spent 18 extra days in Bradenton, FL after the end of their regular season, something Miller believes helped the team do even better.

“These guys all have created an amazing platform with seven more games on national television. You know their names continue to be household women's basketball names now, and they get to leave here with a platform to really be an agent of change, and use their voices, and be able to do some special things and it's pretty special to watch that group come together. And I'm proud that we got 18 extra days here in the playoffs and got to really got to get their names and get them back into the people's living rooms,” he said.

Miller and his players also had messages for the Sun fans, who continued to support the team from more than 1,000 miles away.

“We know we could feel it down here in the bubble that we had all our fan base behind in this unique season where it's not very easy. We appreciate it. We look forward to the day of getting back in, and we feel like we have one of the best home recording advantages in the league. And we look forward to that opportunity if it comes in 2021 to be back in front of our fans we can't wait,” Miller said.

“Even though we came up short. I hope that we made you proud, the way we competed every day. I hope that we made you proud in Connecticut ... I hope that everyone saw that we came together as a unit as a team as a family. And it wasn't easy here in this bubble at all and for us to make it to game five of the semifinals I'm not trying to have this sympathy loss but it just shows the group that we had and how we came together and persevered, that 0-5 start. We just had a great story and I'm just so proud to be part of Connecticut,” Bonner said.

Jasmine Thomas said, “I appreciate them [the fans] sticking with us through this time in the bubble even though we're not with them and really supporting us, sending us messages on social media, just letting us know that they're with us through the highs and the lows as they always have been. And we are right there. We are really close, almost put ourselves back in the finals with a very different looking team, we just appreciate that they're with us and we're gonna win a championship for them.”