Jonquel Jones scored 25 points, including five in the final minute, and New York earned its first trip to the WNBA Finals in 21 years with an 87-84 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.
The former Sun star added 15 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Liberty, who will face defending champion Las Vegas in a clash between the league’s two so-called “super teams” that begins Oct. 8.
League MVP Breanna Stewart led New York with 27 points and Betnijah Laney added 21 in the deciding game of Game 4 of the best-of-five series.
MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for Connecticut. It was his first triple-double of the playoffs after recording a season-high six during the regular season. Tiffany Hayes had 15 points and DiJonai Carrington added 14 for the Sun, who were trying to return to the finals for a second straight season.
A 3-pointer by Stewart with 2 minutes remaining gave the Liberty a 77-75 lead. New York fans chanted “MVP” as she made two foul shots on her next trip to the court.
But DeWanna Bonner brought the Sun back to within one point with a long 3-pointer of her own.
The Sun then lost a challenge on Hayes’ foul with 56 seconds left and Jones made two free throws to make it an 81-78 game. She made two more foul shots after stealing a pass from Hayes to give the Liberty a five-point lead.
A 3-point basket by Tyasha Harris made it 85-84 with 7.6 seconds left. But Stewart made two foul shots at the other end to seal the victory as Connecticut couldn’t muster a final shot.
Laney had 15 of her points in the first half, Stewart had 14 and the Liberty led by one point at the break, after changing the lead eight times in the first half.
His first 3-pointer of the second half highlighted a 13-0 run that extended into the first half and gave the Liberty a 52-44 advantage.
A Stewart turnaround made the score 62-51 and the Liberty led 66-58 after three periods.
Thomas and Jones tangled under the basket early in the fourth quarter and Thomas, who was awkwardly bent over on the floor, remained on the ground and was helped to the locker room. But she was back a few minutes later.
This piece seemed to light up the Sun. A short jumper by Harris highlighted a 16-5 run that saw the Sun tie the game at 69 on a 3-pointer from Carrington.
A 3-point basket from Bonner restored the Sun’s lead to 72-71.
New York 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 final, but the first since 2002.