(Photo credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Breanna Stewart rose to the occasion Friday and the New York Liberty followed suit.
The 2023 WNBA MVP broke out after two sub-par contests during Game 3 of her team's semifinal series with the Connecticut Sun. She collected 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 92-81 win that gave New York a 2-1 series lead.
Stewart and the Liberty aim to end the series Sunday at Uncasville, Conn. and set up a Finals matchup with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.
"This one tonight put momentum back on our side," Stewart said after Game 3. "I think it was huge to really set the tone offensively. We wanted to run in transition whenever we could, and we were mixing up a few different defenses to make it tough on them."
New York led 37-16 after one quarter by shooting 65.2 percent from the field and tying a league record for most points in the opening quarter of a playoff game. All five starters scored in double figures in the game as the Liberty finished the night at 50.0 percent from the field.
Connecticut had nothing to hang its collective hat on, not even Alyssa Thomas' 23 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Thomas was one of several Sun players who expressed their frustration, imploring teammates to increase their effort as they headed for the locker room at halftime.
During a first-half timeout, the Sun's DeWanna Bonner interrupted an intense moment on the bench between teammates DiJonai Carrington and Olivia Nelson-Ododa.
"I felt like our energy level from the beginning was just really poor for whatever reason," Connecticut coach Stephanie White said. "I'm proud of our group for the second through the fourth quarter but that's not good enough when you're planning for an opportunity to go to the Finals."
The Sun played Game 3 without starting wing Rebecca Allen, who was sidelined with a non-COVID-19 illness. Her status for Sunday is to be determined.
If Game 5 is necessary, it will be played Tuesday night at New York.
--Field Level Media