Jonquel ‘JJ’ Jones and the New York Liberty are headed to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Finals.
The Bahamian post player made sure her former team, the Connecticut Sun, wasn’t going to be a part of no upset involving her as she turned back the clock on Sunday, turning in a massive double-double to help the Liberty advance. Jones pounded in 25 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and had four blocked shots, to help the Liberty escape with a 87-84 win over the Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Sunday.
The Liberty won the series three games to one and will go on to play the defending champions Las Vegas Aces in the championship series, starting next Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jones was unceremoniously traded from the Sun to the Liberty in the offseason, following the Sun’s loss to the Aces in last year’s championship, and was determined to bring a championship to New York. Now, she’ll have her chance.
They had to hold off a furious rally by the Sun in the fourth quarter but proved that they were up to the task.
Jones scored five points in the final minute of the game to help seal the win for New York, now making its first trip to the WNBA Finals in 21 years.
Capped by an 11-foot step back jump shot from Tyasha Harris, the Sun scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to cut the Liberty’s lead to just two points, 66-64, with 8:04 remaining.
They eventually pulled even and took their first lead of the game since late in the second quarter, 72-71, on a 25-foot three-point shot from DeWanna Bonner with 3:54 remaining. The game went back and forth until Jones hit some clutch free shots in the final minute of the game to help seal the win for the Liberty. She hit five of six free shots in the span of just 25 seconds to give the Liberty an 84-78 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
The Sun weren’t dead yet.
Harris buried a 25-foot three-point jumper with 18.1 seconds remaining to bring them to within 84 81, and after one of two free shots from Betnijah Laney, Harris hit another three-pointer to bring the Sun to within a single point, 85-84, with 7.1 seconds left.
League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Breanna Stewart hit two free shots and the Sun couldn’t get a final shot off as time expired.
The Sun led by 10 points early and the Liberty by 11 late but the game still came down to some clutch shots and strong defense in the fourth quarter.
After losing the opening game of the series on their home court, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, last week Sunday, the Liberty stormed back to win three in a row to end the series. They lost Game One, 78-63, but bounced back to win the second and third games of the series, 84-77 and 92-81. They won 84-81 on Sunday to win the series three games to one.
On Sunday, the Liberty fell behind 23-19 after the first quarter and were down by as much as 10 points in the second quarter before rallying for a 45-44 lead at the half. There were eight lead changes in the first half.
The Liberty scored seven straight to open the third quarter, after ending the second with six straight, and were up by as much as 11 points in the third before settling for a 66-58 lead after three.
The resilient Sun just wouldn’t go away, making a game out of it in the fourth quarter, before falling.
Stewart led New York with 27 points, Jones added 25 and Laney added 21 in the Game Four clincher.
MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for Connecticut. It was her first triple-double of the postseason after recording a record six during the regular season. Tiffany Hayes had 15 points and DiJonai Carrington added 14 for the Sun, who were trying to make it back to the Finals for a second consecutive season.
Bonner had 12 points and six rebounds for the Sun and Harris gave them five players in double figures with 10 points.
Jones is having a strong postseason, recording a double-double in all six of her games. She is shooting 53.1 percent from the field and is averaging 16.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in the postseason.
The Liberty split the four regular season meetings against the defending champion Aces, who advanced to the finals for the third time in four years, sweeping Dallas in the semifinals.
This will be New York’s fifth appearance in the Finals, but their first since 2002. They are looking to win their first title. Jones, now in her seventh year, is also looking for a first title in the WNBA. This is her first year with New York after spending the first six years of her career with Connecticut.
The best-of-five WNBA Finals will start on Sunday October 8 at the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. The first and second games of the series will be played in Las Vegas, and then it will move to Brooklyn for Game Three, and if necessary, Game Four. Game Five, if necessary, will be played in Las Vegas.