History was plentiful as the Connecticut Sun completely flipped the script after a cross-country trip and a short spin.
Alyssa Thomas achieved the first Triple Threat in WNBA Finals history as the Sun ramped up its attack to bolster its imposing defense to fend off elimination with a 105-76 victory over the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Thursday. Game 4 on Sunday (4 p.m. EST) in Connecticut.
Thomas, who was named to the World Basketball Championship second team before Tipov, had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists as Sun went 4-0 in this post-season elimination games. Thomas has three times in his career with his first doubles earlier this season (July 22 against Minnesota and August 2 against Phoenix).
“We’ve had the ball in her hands a lot tonight and when things go as a coach you feel good that you hit some of the right buttons,” Sun coach Kurt Miller said. “But she’s so selfless. You know, she and Candice [Parker] They are the best strikers in the world, and it’s really fun to watch goalkeepers who don’t have points sharing them. And tonight, she sprayed the ball all night, and it was great to watch.”
Jonquel Jones got her way in the paint scoring 20 points, but the trade-off was for four fouls, which was limited to 25 minutes. The Sun finished the match in the 19-0 round.
The Sun finally found their shots, and those shots were falling in the first half. The Sun set a finals record with a shootout of 82.4% in the first quarter, which was also the highest-grossing first quarter in Finals history. Connecticut closed the first quarter from 25 to 4.
For the game, Connecticut is 55.8% and 53.3% (8 out of 15) out of a 3-point range. The sun created 38 rebounds and 32 assists in 43 field goals.
DeWanna Bonner, who scored just five points in the first two games of the series combined, scored nine points in the first half of Game Three. She finished the match with 18 points.
Bonner also changed her defensive assignment, trying to slow Chelsea Gray into aces. It worked, with Gray largely only achieving success when Bonner was on the bench.
There were flashes as the ace seemed to be controlling the game. Gray grabbed a three-pointer in a row near the end of the first half, and the Aces finished the second quarter with an 8-0 score, capturing Kelsey Bloom’s beater.
But in the second half, the sun was in control of the team. Jackie Young led the Aces with 22 points, while Aja Wilson added 19 points.
The Sun had a 23-point lead in the first half, the biggest lead by either team in the series (the Sun won by 29 points but that was after the two benches of the game were emptied out of reach). Connecticut had 19 assists in 21 field goals in the first half, and drew 18 rebounds (16 on the defensive end).
How the sun won 3
Miller’s defensive adjustments made all the difference. Miller took advantage of Bonner’s length to try to slow her run and her amazing trajectory after the season ended. It worked. Gray did not score after the end of the first half.
“Chelsea Gray’s numbers are now historic in contested shots. So we’re happy to go in tonight, two games, 27 of the 33 shots in this series contested, 27 contested,” Miller said. “So we’ve been staying put, trying to make it tough, but she has a great starting point and incredible talent for scoring during the competition. So we decided to increase her a little bit, and we knew everyone would guard her, everyone would guard her tonight. But let’s take some time on her.”
Bonner’s overall game and the support of local fans were exactly what Sun needed to force at least one more game. Bonner suffered offensively earlier in the series, something Jones had spoken about before Thursday.
Jones’s play as MVP and Triple Thomas cannot be ruled out. The overall team effort was rewarded. The Sun could have stolen the first game in Vegas and was confident after losing three points. Their descent into Game 3 was what was expected in Game 2, but it didn’t come to fruition.
How can the aces bounce back in game 4
Now, the Aces have to make defensive adjustments if they are to win their first title in franchise history. Las Vegas is known for its crime, but you should stop first when Connecticut rolls around.
“I have a coaching staff there,” said Aces coach Becky Hammon. “I don’t have to say much.” “Go back. Look at the ways we can take advantage of what they’re doing and throw the ball up. This match was all about physical and mental strength, and they smoked us on it, period. Not us.”
There were glimpses in Game 3 where the Aces could get back on track and close the chain. Each time, the sun kept pushing the ball inward. Al Shams set a record in the finals with 64 points in paint. Aces have only 26.
“That was just, I think, MO in the playoffs, right. Like even the Chicago series, the team that won the paint won the game. And that’s where it was done,” Jones said. “You know, I think a long time ago, I talked to Lisa Leslie and she said, ‘To win the championship, you have to win the paint. “I see it and feel it now and since I’m a veteran now, I can definitely go back to that and say she was right.”
WNBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Las Vegas 67, Connecticut 64
Game 2: Las Vegas 85, Connecticut 71
The third game: Connecticut 105, Las Vegas 76 (aces 2-1)
Fourth game: Las Vegas in Connecticut, 4 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN)
Fifth game: Connecticut in Las Vegas, 9 p.m. ET Tuesday (ESPN) *
* – If necessary
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