By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) – From analysts and experts, to bookies and betmakers, the Washington Mystics are considered by far the favorites to clinch the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association championship this year over the Connecticut Sun.
Connecticut’s star forward Jonquel Jones knows this. And she thrives on it.
“Everybody says that we’re the underdogs but I think (it adds) fuel to the fire,” Jones told Reuters. “It gives us an edge and we want to go out there and prove everybody wrong because I don’t think I’ve seen one analyst that’s picked us to win the championship.”
The two teams each begin their quest for a first-ever WNBA championship on Sunday, a potentially electric game.
The key for Connecticut will be maintaining its explosive energy, in a series where “every position is going to be tough,” said Jones.
“Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty,” Jones said. “We understand that. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
And there is plenty reason to bet the Sun could give the Mystics a rough time, after a semi-final series that could better be defined as a reckoning than a sweep over the Los Angeles Sparks.
“Our sweep in the semi-finals was a huge confidence boost for our players,” said Coach Curt Miller.
Battle-hardened by regular season trials that included a five-game losing streak in June and July, they have built a “chemistry and culture within the locker room” that Miller points to as playing a “big part in the team’s success.”
“They truly don’t care who receives the credit and attention, they just want to continue to win,” said Miller.
They face their first hurdle with back-to-back road games in Washington, D.C., before heading home for Game 3.
“I think the biggest threat we’re bringing to the finals is our team confidence,” said Morgan Tuck, a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a former standout at UConn.
“I really think this is the best situation for us because we all feel like we have something to prove and a chip on our shoulder.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)