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Aces vs. Sun Game 3: Connecticut keeps season alive with dominant performance on both sides of the ball

Aces vs. Sun Game 3: Connecticut keeps season alive with dominant performance on both sides of the ball thumbnail

The 2022 WNBA Finals aren’t over just yet. On Thursday night, the Connecticut Sun kept their season alive with a comprehensive 105-76 win over the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3. The Sun are now 4-0 in elimination games during this postseason and have shrunk the Aces’ lead in the series to 2-1 ahead of Game 4 on Sunday. 

Alyssa Thomas led the way for the Sun, putting up 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists to record the first triple-double in Finals history. She also joined Sheryl Swoops and Courtney Vandersloot as just the third player to have a triple-double in the playoffs. She also got plenty of help from Jonquel Jones, who imposed her will and finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.

“We put the ball in [Thomas’] hands a lot tonight, and when things work as a coach, you feel really good that you pushed some right buttons,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “But she’s so unselfish. You know, her and Candace are the two best facilitating forwards in the world, and it’s just really fun to watch non-point guards share it. And tonight, she just sprayed the ball around all night, and it was fantastic to watch.”

The Sun came out like a team that was facing elimination, playing with an extremely high level of intensity and focus on both ends of the floor. They shot a remarkable 84.2 percent in the first quarter and jumped out to an early 15-point lead. The 34 points they scored in the first quarter was their highest-scoring quarter in the entire postseason.

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As expected, the Aces eventually settled down and worked their way back into the game. Kelsey Plum hit a heave at the halftime buzzer to give them some momentum, and late in the third quarter they briefly cut the deficit to just six points. That was as close as they would get, though, as the Sun started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run to push the lead back up to double-digits and pulled away from there. 

The Sun showed in this game why they were one of the best defensive teams in the league. Their energy and physicality was at a much higher level than it had been earlier in the series, and they were flying around all over the place. They jumped passing lanes, rotated quickly to take away open shots and completely controlled the glass. 

But it wasn’t just effort. They also made a smart tactical decision with their approach to guarding Chelsea Gray. The Aces point guard has been on a historic tear during the playoffs, but it came to an end in Game 3 because the Sun refused to let her control the game. DeWanna Bonner was given the main assignment in order to throw more length and size at Gray, and they also sent multiple defenders at her in the pick-and-roll to force her to give up the ball. Gray’s 11 points and seven shots were both postseason lows. 

“Length. Length,” Miller said. “Chelsea Gray’s numbers are historic right now on contested shots. So we are pleased going into tonight, two games, 27 of her 33 shots in this series had been contested. 27 contested shots. So we were staying in place with her, trying to make them difficult but she has an incredible release point and incredible knack of scoring while contested. So we decided a little bit more length on her, and we knew everyone’s going to guard her, everyone’s going to guard her tonight. But let’s put some length on her.”

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Offensively, the Sun were on point as well. After scoring 135 points in the first two games combined, they went off for 105 in Game 3. Not only was that a franchise record for points in a playoff game, it was the third-most points scored in regulation of a Finals game all-time. 

Some of that was excellent shot-making, of course, but they also played their game and created easy looks. After setting a WNBA playoff record with 66 points in the paint in Game 4 of the semifinals, they poured in 64 points in the paint on Thursday. Fourteen fastbreak points and 18 second-chance points played a big role in their success around the basket. 

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