Another day, another surprising result in the 2022 WNBA playoffs. On Sunday, the sixth-seeded Dallas Wings upset the third-seeded Connecticut Sun in Game 2, winning 89-79 to tie the series at 1-1 and forced a Game 3 from the winner back to Dallas on Wednesday. It was the Wings’ first playoff win since 2009, when the franchise was still the Detroit Shock.

The Wings jumped out to a 7-0 lead and led by 15 at the end of the first quarter. By the start of the fourth quarter they had pushed the lead to 31 points, and that seemed to be the end of the drama. The Sun then went 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 victory.

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

Reigning MVP Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 20 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, while Brionna Jones and Dijonai Carrington combined for 33 points off the bench. The late surge in the fourth quarter will make the numbers and the final deficit look respectable, but it was one of the worst performances of the season for the Suns.

Here are some highlights from the game:

Wings end playoff drought

When you consider their entire history, the Wings are one of the oldest and most successful franchises in the WNBA. However, the entirety of their accomplishments came during the 12 seasons 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 other occasion.

However, after 2009, things started to fall apart. The team 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 in Tulsa’s tenure, where they were swept by the Phoenix Mercury in 2015.

That forgettable era came to an end the following year, as the team relocated once more. This time, in Texas, where they did a complete rebrand and became the Dallas Wings. Although slightly more competitive than the Tulsa iteration, there hasn’t been much success in Dallas until recently. They lost in the then-first round by an elimination in 2017, 2018 and 2021, and while they made the playoffs those seasons, they were under .500 each time.

While they finished .500 this season and earned the no. 6, their 25-point loss in Game 1 looked like it would be the same old story in the playoffs. Instead, they came out on fire Sunday and have 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 most underrated players, but her value mostly comes from her defense and versatility, not her scoring. In Game 2, however, Thornton put together one of the best offensive games of her career to help the Wings pick up a season-saving win.

During a three-minute stretch in the first quarter, Thornton knocked down three straight 3-pointers to give the Wings an early double-digit lead. Neither she nor Wings ever looked back. Thornton finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. That was a new career playoff high for Thornton and just one point shy of her career high of 21 points. Her four 3s were also tied for a career high.

There was a brief injury scare in the second half when Thornton took a hit to the face and had to be checked by 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’ll have a much better chance of winning.

In the regular season, they were 9-3 when Thornton reached double figures and 9-15 when she didn’t. However, she only scored in double figures in consecutive games on three occasions.

Can the Wings take advantage of the format?

Prior to the season, the league debuted a new playoff format that was generally applauded because it eliminated strikeouts and single-elimination rounds in favor of a standard bracket. However, the new arrangement is not perfect.

Most notably, there have been various complaints about the best-of-three first-round formation being 2-1, meaning the higher-seeded team hosts Games 1 and 2, while the lower-seeded team low waits game 3, if necessary. By winning Game 2 and tying the series at 1-1, the Wings will now be able to return home for a winner-takes-all Game 3 despite winning seven fewer regular season games than the Suns.

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

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