Wings vs. Suns score, takeaway: Dallas pulls off upset victory to set up decisive Game 3 in 2022 WNBA playoffs

Another day, another surprising result in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs. On Sunday, the sixth-seeded Dallas Wings beat the third-seeded Connecticut Suns 89-79 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1 and force a Game 3 in Dallas on Wednesday. It was the Wings’ first playoff win since 2009, when the franchise was still the Detroit Shock.

The Wings went on a 7-0 run and led by 15 at the end of the first quarter. They had pushed the advantage to 31 points early in the fourth quarter, and it looked like that would be the end of the play. Then, the Suns raged on a 22-2 run midway through the fourth to put a slight scare on the Wings. It was a classic case of too little, too late, however, as the Wings held on for the season-saving win.

It was a total team effort from the Wings, as they dominated in every aspect and played with more energy and intensity on both ends of the floor. Kayla Thornton (20 points, five rebounds and four assists), Alisha Gray (15 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals) and Tyra McCowan (17 points and 11 rebounds) all had outstanding performances.

Reigning MVP Jonquel Jones led the Suns with 20 points and nine rebounds on 6 of 12 shooting from the field, while Breonna Jones and DeJonai Carrington combined for 33 points off the bench. A late surge in the fourth quarter would make the numbers and eventual deficit respectable, but it was one of the worst performances of the season for the Suns.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Wings end playoff drought

When you take their entire history into account, the Wings are one of the oldest and most successful franchises in the WNBA. However, all of their accomplishments came in 12 seasons when they were the Detroit Shock. From 2003–09, they went to the playoffs every year, winning three titles and losing in the finals on one occasion.

After 2009, however, things began to fall apart. The team was moved to Oklahoma and became the Tulsa Shock. They won just 18 games in their first three seasons in Tulsa, and made the playoffs just once during their Tulsa tenure, where they were defeated by the Phoenix Mercury in 2015.

That forgettable era ended the following year, when the team moved once again. This time, in Texas, where they underwent a complete rebrand and became the Dallas Wings. Although Tulsa has been a bit more competitive than the iteration, there hasn’t been much success in Dallas until recently. They lost in the then-single-elimination first round in 2017, 2018 and 2021, and while they made the playoffs in those seasons, they were under .500 each time.

While they finished .500 this season and earned the No. 6 ring, their 25-point loss in Game 1 seemed to indicate it was going to be the same old story in the playoffs. Instead, they came out on fire Sunday and snapped their 13-year playoff drought. It was their first playoff win since 2009, and the first time they won an elimination game since 2008.

Thornton delivers a near career night

Kayla Thornton is one of the league’s more underrated players, but her value comes mostly from her defense and versatility, not scoring. In Game 2, however, Thornton put together one of the best offensive games of her career to help the Wings get a season-saving win.

In a three-minute span in the first quarter, Thornton hit three consecutive 3-pointers to give the Wings an early double-digit lead. Neither he nor Wings ever looked back. Thornton finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. It was a new playoff career-high for Thornton and just one point shy of matching his career-high of 21 points. His four 3s were also tied for a career high.

There was a brief injury scare when Thornton was hit in the face in the second half and needed to be checked out by the Wings’ medical staff on the bench. Thankfully, she was able to return to the game and should be fine for Game 3, when the Wings will be hoping for another big night from her. If they get one, they have a much better chance of winning.

During the regular season, Thornton was 9-3 when he reached double figures and 9-15 when he didn’t. However, she only scored in double figures in three consecutive games.

Can take advantage of wing patterns?

Before the season, the league debuted a new playoff format that was generally praised because it eliminated byes and single-elimination rounds in favor of standard brackets. However, the new system is not correct.

In particular, there have been various complaints about the best-of-three first-round setup being 2-1, meaning the higher-seeded team hosts Games 1 and 2, while the lower-seeded team hosts Game 3 if necessary. After winning Game 2, and tying the series at 1-1, the Wings will now return home for a winner-take-all Game 3 despite having won seven fewer games than the Suns in the regular season.

Of course, the Wings have to win to actually take advantage of the format. While home court is obviously important in the postseason, it’s worth noting that the Wings were 8-10 at home during the regular season, and were one of two playoff teams with a sub-.500 record at home. The Suns, on the other hand, went 12-6 on the road this season, second only to the Las Vegas Aces for the best road record in the league.

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