Uncasville, CT — The Las Vegas Aces lacked a sense of urgency, mental toughness, and the physicality they displayed in the first two games of the WNBA Finals blowing a golden opportunity to close out this series on the road and getting annihilated 105-76 by the Connecticut Sun in Game 3. The Aces played atrociously in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 28-7 in the final frame.
“This game was about physicality and mental toughness and they smoked us on it,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said after the dismal loss. “The physical follows, but the mental for them was there and not us. And kudos to them for executing their game plan and executing it hard. They didn’t do a whole lot different, they just did it harder.”
After their first timeout of the game early in the first quarter, the Sun began to settle into their game plan both offensively and defensively, never taking their foot off the gas once they claimed the lead in the game. Connecticut concentrated on the thorn in their side known as Chelsea Gray and squelched any opportunity for her to truly heat up.
After an 8-0 run by Las Vegas to end the second quarter, the Sun kicked their offense into overdrive as Alyssa Thomas became the driving force in this one and finished with a triple-double: 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists, a WNBA Finals record. The only other players to reach that milestone in the WNBA playoffs were Courtney Vandersloot and Sheryl Swoopes.
“That’s what I’ve been doing all season,” Thomas said about her record setting triple-double. “We’ve been struggling offensively and finally got a game back at home.
Connecticut played with their backs against the wall, and came out throwing haymakers as if they were ready to close out this series unlike the Aces.
When our backs are against the wall, we play really good basketball,” said Jonquel Jones, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds. “Sometimes you wish that you didn’t put yourself in those positions, but that’s done now. All we can do is focus on the next game.”
The only bright spots for Vegas were A’ja Wilson who finished with 19 points, and Jackie Young who scored a team-high 22 points and shot 50 percent from the three-point line.
“We’ll make a few adjustments. We made it too easy for them. They’re a physical team, and we just have to match their physical energy,” Young said.
With two days off between Game 3 and Game 4, the Aces will have to bounce back in a major way in order to keep this series from returning to Las Vegas for a winner-take-all Game 5. Besides matching the physicality of Connecticut and not turning the ball over, maybe they need to take a page out of coach Curt Miller’s playbook and play like their backs are against the wall. Game 4 should be treated as a must-win for the Aces, because the Sun are a tenacious team that you don’t want to give momentum and hope to in any way.
Tip-off for Game 4 is Sunday, September 18 at 1 PM PST on ESPN at Mohegan Sun Arena.