Jonquel Jones saw the same thing on the inside that everyone else saw in the Liberty from the outside.
“I definitely think from the beginning of our whole journey, I felt like this team was special and was going to be able to do a lot of special things,” the 2021 WNBA MVP said.
The journey has included the winningest regular season in Liberty history at 32-8, their first Commissioner’s Cup crown and a two-game sweep of Washington in the opening round. So they’re among the final four standing for the first time since 2015, which had been the last time they took a playoff series.
Now their chase continues for the most special thing — the franchise’s first WNBA championship. The second-seeded Liberty will try to climb the next treacherous step, the best-of-five semifinals, and reach the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002.
They will face the Sun in Game 1 at 1 p.m. Sunday at Barclays Center. Third-seeded Connecticut has made it to the semifinals five years running. The Sun also are searching for their first league championship.
Jones helped take the Sun to the WNBA Finals in 2019 and 2022 before being traded to the Liberty.
“I understand that if we play the way we’re supposed to play and do what we’re supposed to do, the chances of us being successful are very high,” Jones said.
The Liberty swept the four-game regular-season series, although they had to rally from 20 down in one meeting before winning in overtime.
Connecticut features a formidable power couple, All-Star forward and MVP candidate Alyssa Thomas and All-Star forward-guard DeWanna Bonner, who announced their engagement in July.
Thomas delivered six triple-doubles during the regular season and averaged 15.5 points, a league-high 9.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists. Her points and assists accounted for 58 points — a postseason league record — in the Sun’s series-clinching 90-75 Game 3 win Wednesday at Minnesota. She posted 28 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.
Bonner had 25 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the third player with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in postseason competition. She averaged a team-leading 17.4 points in Connecticut’s 27-13 regular season.
“They’re a great team,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said earlier this month. “ . . . They’ve always been tough on defense and they’re disruptive. The way that they play, they’re sharing the ball. [Thomas], at the point forward position, certainly kind of helps them. But they’re all doing their jobs.”
Las Vegas, the top-seeded defending champion, is playing No. 4 Dallas in the other semifinal. The expectation since before the season tipped off has been a Liberty-Las Vegas superteam showdown in the Finals.
“I would say the commitment that we have to one another has really made this thing go,” Sabrina Ionescu said late in the Liberty’s regular season. “I’ve seen so many teams come together, especially in the NBA, that are superteams that have not been able to make it work because there are so many egos, there’s so many role changes, and there’s one ball.”