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Aces want to have fun again, force Game 5 against Sun

A key ingredient to the Aces’ success all season has been missing during their WNBA semifinal series against Connecticut.

It’s not anything dealing with X’s and O’s or that can be measured in numbers. What they’ve been missing is having fun.

The Aces, the league’s No. 1 seed, admit they haven’t played as freely in their three playoff games as they did in the regular season. That’s resulted in tentative play, a lack of conviction in what they’re doing that has led to turnovers and other uncharacteristic mistakes and a 2-1 deficit against the seventh-seeded Sun in the best-of-five series.

Game 4 is at 10 a.m. Sunday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

“We have to credit the Sun on how prepared they’ve been for every game,” Aces guard Kayla McBride said. “But we just have to get back to who we are — our swag, our confidence and just having fun. That’s something we’ve been missing in this series, playing a little uptight and just wanting it so bad.”

One way the Aces had fun in the regular season was using their defense to trigger their transition game, which helped them lead the league in scoring.

They didn’t score fewer than 78 points in any of their 22 regular-season games, but Connecticut has limited them to fewer than 70 in both losses.

A’ja Wilson has played at the same level that won her the MVP award with 22.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, but she hasn’t received much help. The Aces shot 47.6 percent in the regular season, but that number has been shaved to 40 percent against the Sun.

Their inability to consistently knock down jump shots has been magnified by turning the ball over and allowing the Sun to control the boards on the offensive end.

In Game 3, a 77-68 Connecticut win, both teams shot a nearly identical percentage — 39.0 for the Sun and 38.8 for the Aces — but Connecticut shot 15 more times because of a 14-8 edge on the offensive boards and 15-4 turnover disparity.

“Everybody knows they’re packing the paint,” Aces guard Danielle Robinson said. “They’re throwing everyone at A’ja. We just have to be confident. We’ve knocked down those shots the entire season, and we need people to just relax and play their game. Our turnovers are just indecision. If we fix that and get shots, we’ll be all right.”

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the Aces. They had a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 3 but imploded down the stretch, as the Sun closed on a 20-4 run.

The Aces haven’t lost back-to-back games all season and are confident that won’t happen Sunday.

“We’re upbeat,” Robinson said. “We put ourselves in this position as the No. 1 seed to play a series. We’re just ready to get out there and have a little bit of fun. When the ball tosses up, we’ll see what happens.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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