The Connecticut Sun live to fight another day in the 2019 WNBA Finals after beating the Washington Mystics 90-86 in Game 4 at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday.
Jasmine Thomas sank two free throws with 18.4 seconds remaining to put the Sun ahead by three points. Natasha Cloud attempted to get a quick two at the other end but had her layup disrupted by Thomas.
Alyssa Thomas sealed the victory by making one of her two free throws with 10 seconds left.
Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams struggled in Game 3, scoring 15 combined points as the Sun lost 94-81. They proved pivotal in Connecticut evening up the series. Jones had 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Williams scored 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting.
Alyssa Thomas was a 49.6 percent free-throw shooter during the regular season, and she's playing with a torn labrum in both of her shoulders. Despite that, she sank nine of her 10 attempts from the charity stripe.
The two-time All-Star narrowly missed out on a triple-double, posting 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. She was instrumental in limiting Elena Delle Donne, who's nursing a herniated disc in her back, to 11 points as well.
The Mystics' supporting cast helped compensate for Delle Donne's lack of usual effectiveness in Game 3. Kristi Toliver, Cloud and Emma Meesseman had 60 points in the win. That trio had 32 points in Game 4.
Despite Toliver and Delle Donne in particular affected by their respective injuries, Washington was still in a position to potentially complete a massive comeback.
The No. 1 overall seed turned Game 4 on its head by outscoring the Sun 28-12 in the third quarter to tie the game. They opened the half on a 16-1 run. Toliver and Ariel Atkins combined for 12 points and provided the long-range shooting that had been sorely lacking for Washington to that point.
Meesseman also had six points after failing to score in the opening 20 minutes. The Mystics found success when they fed the 6'4" Belgian inside.
Then the Sun's shooting touch completely abandoned them in the third. They shot 4-of-17 from the field as the Mystics slowly chipped away at the deficit. Aerial Powers tied the game at 68 on a layup with 41.6 seconds left in the quarter.
Momentum was firmly on Washington's side after Meesseman connected from deep to give the Mystics a five-point lead, 77-72, at the 6:51 mark of the fourth quarter.
To their credit, the Sun didn't fold. Connecticut immediately tied the game with five straight points to set up a breathless finish.
Few expected that kind of late drama based on how the first half unfolded.
Hot starts have been a theme throughout the series. In each of the first three games, the team that led after the first quarter went on to win.
The Sun were poised to continue the trend by setting a franchise record with 32 points in the first quarter to build a 15-point lead.
Natisha Hiedeman, who had 10 points throughout the entire postseason entering Tuesday, played a role in the offensive onslaught with a pair of three-pointers, which was the kind of bench help Connecticut didn't get in Game 3.
The game leveled off a bit more in the second quarter, but the Sun still led 56-40 at halftime. In general, Connecticut was getting far more from its star players. Williams and Alyssa Thomas had 14 first-half points apiece, while Jones was asserting herself inside.
By the end, all five Sun starters scored in double figures. They only got 10 points from their bench, though, while the Mystics had 39 points from their second unit.
Fatigue could start to become a serious issue for the Sun in Game 5. Alyssa Thomas has been on the bench for 29 total seconds over the series, and the duo of Williams and Jasmine Thomas has been on the floor for at least 34 minutes in each of the first four games.
The way Connecticut unraveled in the third quarter and struggled to open the fourth might be a warning sign.
As good as the Mystics' starting five is, Meesseman or Powers' contributions off the bench could be what decides this year's Finals.
Game 5 is Thursday in Washington, D.C. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Whatever the result, the WNBA will have a first-time champion.