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Aces collapse late, on brink of elimination in playoffs

Updated September 24, 2020 - 10:04 pm

The top-seeded Aces were up seven points midway through the fourth quarter and eyeing a chance to take the lead in a WNBA playoff semifinal series.

But the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun went on a closing run that puts them one victory from reaching the finals for the second straight season.

That means the Aces have no margin for error after Thursday’s 77-68 loss at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Sun closed with a 20-4 run to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

“A lot of stuff that wins playoff games, they were able to do and we weren’t,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “That’s the difference in the ballgame.”

Three Connecticut players had double-doubles — Alyssa Thomas (23 points, 12 rebounds), Brionna Jones (15, 10) and DeWanna Bonner (12, 10). That more than offset the double-double posted by the Aces’ A’ja Wilson, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 4 is at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Giving it away

Turnovers were a problem for the Aces all game, but the giveaways were especially critical down the stretch.

Of the Aces’ 15 turnovers — compared with four for the Sun — five came in the final 2:50. That allowed the Sun to finish with a 10-2 run.

“How many times can we turn the ball over and expect to win the game?” asked Angel McCoughtry, who scored 14 points for the Aces. “You can’t do that in the playoffs.”

The Aces pointed at themselves rather than a stepped-up defensive attack by Connecticut as the cause.

“It was 100 percent us not taking care of the ball,” Wilson said. “It was nothing they were doing. We got sped up in our mind in a way we shouldn’t have.”

2. So much for being out

The Sun’s Thomas was ruled out for the game with an injured right shoulder, but Laimbeer wasn’t surprised to see her on the court.

“This is something that happens to her all the time,” Laimbeer said. “(The shoulder) pops out, it pops back in. It was clear yesterday she was going to play. We were prepared for that. We had the game in our hands in the fourth quarter.”

Thomas was injured in Game 2 on Tuesday.

3. Shouldering the load

Wilson is accustomed to being asked to carry the team, and that was the case again Thursday. Two other Aces reached double figures.

“One thing we have to find is another scorer besides A’ja to step up and be consistent,” Laimbeer said.

The Aces’ best offensive quarter was the third when they scored 24 points and Wilson took just one shot. Laimbeer attributed that success to getting the transition game going and moving the ball.

He saw too much standing around in the fourth quarter when the Aces scored 12 points.

For her part, Wilson said she’ll do whatever it takes.

“I can’t take myself out of it,” she said. “I have to continue to push forward and bring the energy for my teammates.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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