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2019 WNBA Finals Analysis (Game 4): Sun win free throw, rebounding battles to force Game 5

The Connecticut Sun entered Tuesday night’s WNBA Finals Game 4 with their backs against the wall. They were blown out by the visiting Washington Mystics two days prior, failing to take advantage of a favorable home-court situation and a hobbled Mystics starting lineup.

But the Sun attacked early and with purpose in Game 4, using their collective strengths on the glass and in transition to win 90-86 and force Game 5 on Thursday.

It started with a 32-17 first-quarter lead, but there was more of the same dominance in the second. The Mystics couldn’t generate the easy three-point looks they were getting in Game 3, and the shots they did get were frequently and heavily contested. Connecticut capped the half fittingly with this Courtney Williams floating jump shot, giving them a 57-40 advantage:

Just as they did in Game 3, however, the Mystics came out of halftime with a flurry of action. As Washington’s shots started falling, Connecticut’s transition opportunities dried up, stalling its offense. Kristi Toliver was key to this run, hitting multiple shots from outside.

By the time the third quarter ended, Connecticut’s lead had evaporated, and the game was tied at 68 apiece.

The final period made Game 4 an instant WNBA Playoffs classic. Neither team completely grasped the momentum — Emma Meesseman nailed a three-pointer to give the Mystics a five-point lead, but the Sun quickly responded with buckets from Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones. The teams continued trading big plays from there, as game was tied at 79, then 81 and again at 84.

In the end, it was that Stricklen three-pointer that put the Sun up for good. Connecticut held Washington scoreless for the final two minutes, and Alyssa Thomas — who shot just 49.6 percent from the free throw line during the regular season — made three of four foul shots to put the ice on a heart-stopping finish.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Sun’s return to form on the boards was big, especially after losing the rebounding battle to Washington on Sunday, but their performance at the free throw line was just as significant. Connecticut made 23 of 26 foul shots (the Mystics were just 10-of-13), with Thomas calmly connecting on nine of 10.

On the other end, Washington shot well once again, but its field goal distribution seemed off. Reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne attempted just eight shots in 30 minutes of play (though, to be fair, she has been playing through back spasms), while Toliver took just five in 33 minutes.

Will the Mystics get their shot distribution — and health issues — resolved in time for Game 5? Can the Sun win the biggest game in franchise history on the road? It’s all on the table now for the top two teams in the WNBA, who get a brief rest to travel back to Washington. On Thursday, it’s winner-take-all, and we can only hope the finale will be as thrilling as Game 4’s.