It was quick, quiet and before anyone knew it, the Connecticut Sun were up double digits. The league leader in net rating cruised from there.
The No. 3 seed Sun dominated the No. 6 Dallas Wings, 93-68, in Game 1 of their first-round series at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Thursday. The Sun can book a berth in the WNBA semifinals for a fourth consecutive year with a win in Game 2 on Sunday.
Connecticut won in every aspect of the game and spread the ball around to get four starters in double digits and all but one player on the scoresheet. Head coach Curt Miller emptied his bench, going five deep as a 14-point second-quarter lead ballooned into 20-plus during the final minutes. Only Bria Hartley and Jasmine Thomas, who are both out for the season with ACL injuries, did not take the court.
Satou Sabally was crucial early for the Wings in her first game since July 12, but the rest of their offense stalled. Sabally, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, was out with an ankle injury and came off the bench to pace Dallas in the first half with 10 points in 12 minutes. Her buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter drew Dallas back within three.
The Wings were without 2021 All-Star MVP Arike Ogunbowale, as they will be all series. Ogunbowale, 25, underwent surgery on the core muscles around her hip on Aug. 9, three days after her final game of the regular season. She averaged 19.7 points per game, tied for third in the league, and career-bests in effective field-goal percentage (48.1), rebounds (3.3) and assists (3.6).
Ogunbowale was working out on the court ahead of the game and could return for the semifinals if Dallas were to advance. A Game 3 would be in Dallas. It was the Wings' eighth consecutive playoff loss, tying the 2004-10 Mystics for longest losing skid in postseason history, per ESPN Stats and Info.
How the Sun won Game 1
Connecticut (25-11) stayed true to itself in playing a well-balanced game offensively while staying strong defensively, shown by its 10 steals to five for the Wings. Every Sun starter was in the scoresheet by halftime (two Dallas starters had zero points) and they spread the ball around with 25 total assists. The Wings had 11.
The Sun have offensive weapons all over the floor, an issue with which the Wings were always going to have a tough time contending. Dallas ranks ninth in defensive rating (104.3) and allow an average of 82.8 points per game (seventh).
Jonquel Jones came into the series as the team's leading scorer, but her 14.6 points per game rank 19th in the league. The only teams in the playoffs without at least two players in the top-20 and whose leading scorer isn't in the top-five (as Ogunbowale is for Dallas) are Connecticut and Chicago.
Jones, the 2021 MVP, led the Sun with 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 2 and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. She added eight rebounds, three assists and a block in 25 minutes. Alyssa Thomas had 15, 10 rebounds and seven assists. DeWanna Bonner added 12 points and Courtney Williams chipped in 10. Natisha Hiedeman had eight points, but added four rebounds, two assists and two steals to round out the starters.
Dijonai Carrington scored 13 in 18 minutes off the bench with six rebounds.
What the Wings can do to even the series
Dallas (18-18) will need to find more offensively and grab the offensive boards. The Wings won the season series, 2-1, and in each victory they edged the league's best offensive rebounding team in the category. But in the 31-point regular season loss they were beat on the O-boards (16-10) and crushed on the glass (42-28). The offensive boards were 8-8 in Game 1 of the series, but the total was a significant as the Sun pulled away.
Marina Mabrey came into the postseason on a hot streak, averaging 20.9 points per game over the last seven, five of which were wins. That included showings of 27, 26 and 31 points and in two of those games she was 61% or better from the field.
The same goes for 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan, who averaged 17.7 points and 10.5 rebounds a game since shortly after cracking the starting lineup for the stretch run.
But on Thursday, they both went quiet and combined for 18 points going 7-of-19. Sabally also cooled in the second half and played only three minutes. The team struggled from 3-point range (5-of-20, 25%) and at the free-throw line (11-of-19, 57.9%). None of that will keep pace with the league's second-best team in offensive rating (105.8).
Allisha Gray scored 17 points with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Tyasha Harris had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block off the bench with the game already put away for the Sun.
Sun vs. Wings series schedule
Game 1: Sun 93, Wings 68
Game 2: Sunday, Dallas at Connecticut, noon on ABC
Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, Connecticut at Dallas, 9 p.m. on ESPN