Aces blitzed in trip to Connecticut, will play in Game 4
The championship champagne will have to remain on ice for one more game as the Las Vegas Aces couldn’t close out the sweep, losing in blowout fashion to the Connecticut Sun.
Las Vegas gave up 100-plus points for the first time since Aug. 14 and just the fifth time this season when it lost, 105-76, to Connecticut Thursday, Sept. 15 from the Mohegan Sun Arena.
This is just the second time all postseason that the Aces have dropped a game. It’s also the first time the team has lost on the road.
“I thought the first five minutes set the tone for the whole game,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “You don’t want to be digging out of a hole on the road. There’s just too many things that have to go your way.”
It’s just the second time the Sun has beat the Aces this season in six tries. This postseason run, the team is 4-0 in elimination games.
With a win, Las Vegas would have secured the series sweep along with its first championship in franchise history. For now, Connecticut’s pursuit of its first title in team history is still alive.
“I’ve got a ticked off crew in there,” Hammon said. “I’m not going to have to say much.”
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 from the Mohegan Sun Arena with tipoff set for 1 p.m.
Connecticut closed the game just as fast as it started the game, building a lead as large as the final margin of 29 points.
In the first quarter, the Sun used a 82% mark from the field to take control of the game to the tune of a 15-point lead in the first 10 minutes.
“Defense,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We just were not locked in on the defensive end. We were a step slow on the defensive end and that fuels our offense.”
The lead would grow to 23 points in the second quarter as the Aces appeared to have no answers.
“Once they had the 20-point lead, we were just trading baskets with them,” Hammon said. “That’s not going to work, mathematically. And we couldn’t stop them, plain, point, simple. Our defense could not stop them tonight.”
After Las Vegas made a run in the second half to cut the deficit to six points, Connecticut used an 8-0 run to push the lead back to double-digits. Before long, the Sun would use a 19-0 to close the game and win the fourth quarter 26-7.
“They just kicked our ass in every way possible,” Hammon said. “If there was a stat on mental toughness and physicality, they would’ve kicked us there too.” Connecticut won the points in the paint battle, 64-26, setting a new WNBA record. In addition, the Sun outrebounded the Aces, 38 to 24.
Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas posted the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history with a final stat line of 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.
“She got it into the high-post tonight and really did a lot of damage,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “She hit her shots and then we stepped up so she was finding her teammates. Everyone on their team shot great.” Thomas’ effort helped the Sun racked up 32 assists on 43 made field goals while the Aces compiled 19 helpers on 27 made shots on the other end.
Former league MVP Jonquel Jones scored 11 of her 20 points in the third quarter to rival two-time MVP Wilson’s 19-point effort for Las Vegas.
“Jonquel played like Jonquel,” Wilson said. “She’s an MVP. She’s played exactly how she’s supposed to play. I’m not going to take anything away from her, she dominated the game the way she should.”
Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner broke out of a slump, scoring 18 points on 8-of-15 from the field after being held to five combined points through the first two games of the series.
Bonner also had the assignment of guarding the red-hot Chelsea Gray on the other side of the ball.
“I’m not surprised they did,” Hammon said. “Why wouldn’t you try something different? That’s about the only matchup they didn’t try.”
Gray was held to two points in the first quarter before exploding for three straight threes in the second quarter to go into halftime with 11 points.
She would be held scoreless the rest of the way.
“They really trapped Chelsea hard,” Plum said. “We didn’t do a great job, personally me, getting to those outlets. Becky calls it a .5 pass so making a decision in .5 seconds.”
Guard Jackie Young had her first offensive explosion since Game 4 of the WNBA Semifinals against Seattle. In fact, she scored in 20-point territory for the first time this postseason run and the first time since Aug. 11.
“Obviously, she got her three-ball going a little bit,” Hammon said. “They made an adjustment and put Bonner on Chelsea and the way they were double teaming and blitzing a lot of times, she just found some spots.”
Young opened the game with three three-pointers in the first quarter on her way to nine quick points.
“I think I just did what I was supposed to do,” she said. “Knocked down open shots. They were leaving me open and I just had to step into it with confidence and make my shots.”