Becky Hammon does not want to give up 31 points in a quarter. But the Aces coach is glad her team built enough of a lead during the first three to escape with a 90-84 road win over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday.
The Aces entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead, but were outscored by 11 points in the final 10 minutes. The Sun got as close as three points with four minutes remaining.
“I want to win all four,” Hammon said. “But sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way.”
The Aces improved to 7-0 after the win at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Sun fell to 6-2.
“We weathered the storm,” said Aces forward A’ja Wilson, who scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “We understood they were going to throw that punch, but we were ready for it.”
Wing Jackie Young continued her hot start to the season with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Guard Kelsey Plum contributed 17 points and made a clutch 3-pointer late in the game.
The Aces have won 11 consecutive games dating to last season. They’ve also won their past three games despite shooting below 30 percent on 3-pointers.
Reserve guard Rebecca Allen led the Sun with 22 points, including a barrage of late 3s. Center Brionna Jones added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The teams will meet again Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
1. Strong defensive start
The Aces rectified their poor start against the Indiana Fever two days ago with an engaged defensive performance in the first half.
The Sun trailed by 17 points at halftime, shooting 31.2 percent. They were 2 of 14 on 3s in the first half.
The Aces forced 12 turnovers, which they turned into 13 points. Wilson and center Candace Parker protected the paint well, accounting for four blocks.
“We locked up the paint very well,” Hammon said.
2. Helping hand
Plum’s struggles on 3s continued. She was 1 of 4 after going 0 of 9 in the previous two games.
But she made her impact felt by facilitating. Her ability to drive to the rim opened passes to teammates, and she finished with six assists against one turnover.
Plum wasn’t the only Aces player who moved the ball well.
Point guard Chelsea Gray had seven assists, Young six and Parker four. The Aces assisted on 25 of their 32 field goals.
“We just try to be unselfish, make the right plays,” Young said. “When we get stops, we’re able to get going in transition offense, and so the ball was popping.”
3. Perimeter collapse
The Aces played about three solid quarters of defense. One massive fourth-quarter performance from Allen nearly ruined that performance.
Allen exploded for 14 points in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. Her six 3s in the game were more than the Aces made as a team. It was the first time this season she has scored in double figures.
Hammon said some of Allen’s shots were simply difficult ones. Young said the Aces are still working on communication and playing team defense to help out when a player gets hot.
“We have to play four good quarters of defense,” Young said. “We’re still growing in that aspect.”