UNCASVILLE, CONN. – The last bell just sounded in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, with After Sun won 105-76, when Connecticut star Jonkel Jones grabbed a microphone. “We appreciate you all very much,” she told the crowd of 8,745 people. “Your energy was contagious. We needed it. Let’s get another one.” Jones played her best game of the finals and scored 20 points in the win. She was joined by Alyssa Thomas, All-Star Striker Recorded the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history With 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. Connecticut now tracks its best of five series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Sunday at 4 PM ET. But before facing the sun is another elimination game, here are three points from Game 3:
Determine the first quadrant pressure for the Connecticut tone
It only took 2:15 for Sun coach/general manager Curt Miller to call his first timeout. Connecticut trailed 9-2, having missed two out of three throws and scored one turn on her four possessions. “There was no panic, we were still stable in our game plan,” Thomas said. From there, The Sun played its best offensive extension in the series. They closed the quarter on 32-10, to lead by 15. They shot 82.4% in the first 10 minutes of the competition. “They hit us in every possible way,” Aces coach Becky Hammon He said. “There are no two ways about it. If there was a statistic regarding mental and physical toughness, they would have kicked—there too.”
In defense, Connecticut State shot Las Vegas guards on ball screens, and Kelsey Bloom and Chelsea Gray doubled in the ocean. Sun guard DeWanna Bonner spent most of the night on Gray, with Miller saying they wanted to take advantage of Bonner’s length to try and compete in shots as much as possible. “I thought we were very hesitant a lot of the time with first losing consciousness,” Hamon said. “I thought the first five minutes was kind of setting the tone for the whole game, and you don’t want to dig into a pothole on the road.”
The Aces made it out of the early deficit, eventually using an 11-2 run just before the break to score just 11 points in the first half. But Connecticut’s advantage in the first quarter proved insurmountable.
Jones looked like herself MVP, while Thomas made history
Coming out of the locker room, it looked as if the Aces were ready to push the sun for the duration of the competition. But early in the frame, the 2021 League Player of the Year proved her presence to make sure her team didn’t miss out on their first-half success. Jones assisted goalkeeper Courtney Williams in Sun’s first possession and Bonner assisted in the second. Halfway through the period, she went on to perform a scoring spree, eventually finishing with 11 points in the frame. Miller said Jones’ success wasn’t necessarily a reflection of his star attacking star’s tailored playing calls, but that she “demanded, and had the determination, to get the shots.”
“She was aggressive and active off the ball and allowed herself a secondary pass,” he said.
The Sun set a WNBA Finals record with 66 points in paint. Jones was instrumental in that, and so was Thomas, who was a force around the edge. She then said that she approached Game 3 “like any other”. And with the stakes soaring to their climax, she seemed unfazed. “I looked for her attack but again she was very selfless, spraying the ball, which is very important,” Miller said.
Wilson and Gray are being held on probation
The final score of the 29-point game is misleading. While Las Vegas pulled off its starts with 4:22 to play in the fourth quarter, trailing by 18, it dropped by just eight entering the fourth quarter. Simply put, he wasn’t able to muster an early tire. 2022 MVP Aja Wilson scored 19 points in another effective display – she made eight out of 14 shots – while Gray scored 11 points on a four out of seven shots. But neither was as dominant as it was in Las Vegas. Gray scored nine of her points in a 59-second stretch late in the second quarter, not scoring after the break. Wilson only had five points after the break. “We lacked energy at the end of the day,” Wilson said. “And you need to get into a road game like this with your first road game and they had more energy than us. They looked fresh. They looked fresh. I think that was the biggest difference.”
As the series looks forward to Sunday, Hammon said her cast “has gone out of business.”
“I won’t have to say much,” she said, when asked what she plans to tell her team before the fourth game. Look at the ways we can take advantage of what they’re doing and throw the ball up.”
More WNBA coverage:
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•.Aces’ Plum, Sky’s Parker Join MVP Wilson on First All-WNBA Team
• In the superhero team, Chelsea Gray is the scientist behind the aces