UNCASVILLE, Conn. — To Sandy Bondello, it was “lit.” Sabrina Ionescu said it gave her goose bumps and was when she knew the Liberty would win Game 4 on Sunday.
With less than a minute remaining, Jonquel Jones managed to steal a pass from Tiffany Hayes, sparked a transition push and ended up drawing a foul — and sinking two free throws — to inch the Liberty closer to an 87-84 victory that clinched their semifinal series and secured their first WNBA Finals berth since 2002.
Jones finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds to give her a sixth consecutive double-double.
“She stays patient,” Ionescu said, “and when her time comes and when the defense relaxes just a little bit, she’s able to punch and capitalize on those opportunities.”
Around this time last year, Jones wrapped up her tenure with the Sun following a loss to the Aces in the WNBA Finals.
She requested a trade to the Liberty in the offseason, which started a difficult transition that included learning “a completely different style than the Connecticut team,” Ionescu said.
That included adjusting to the pace and speed that the Liberty played with, as well as understanding where she needed to be for different pick-and-roll sequences.
One of those reads turned into a 3-pointer Sunday.
From the first possession of the game, Jones generated attention — and offense — within the paint.
She drew a foul on Hayes and later in the quarter posted up on DeWanna Bonner, backing toward the left block until she turned and made a basket.
Jones’ 25 points marked her second-most with the Liberty, second only to her 27 points July 21, and 11 of those Sunday came in the fourth quarter.
She made sure to shoot it if open, Jones said. If she received the ball in the paint, she wanted to do the same.
“A lot of it’s just JJ working really bloody hard to get position,” Brondello said. “That’s hard work. She had a lot of people around her at different times, but she was just massive.”
And with the Liberty continuing their postseason quest, Jones has another chance to win her first WNBA title.
She already won an MVP award in 2021.
She made the finals the next year, too.
She remembered “a lot of emotions” and disappointment from how that last run ended.
This one, she hopes, will be different.
“Just going in with the mindset to leave it all on the court,” Jones said, “and finally get one.”