Updated September 22, 2020 - 9:00 pm
The Aces’ season likely hung in the balance in a tied game with about a minute left in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals Tuesday at Bradenton, Florida.
Teams that fall behind 2-0 in best-of-five series are 0-13 in league history, but A’ja Wilson wouldn’t let her team fall into that situation.
Wilson scored two consecutive late baskets, and the top-seeded Aces finished the game on an 8-0 run and defeated the Connecticut Sun 83-75 to tie the series. Game 3 is at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Nothing in this league is easy,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Everything’s hard, and our players gritted it out. We got some good performances by a lot of people, and A’ja played A’ja’s game.”
Wilson finished with a career playoff-high 29 points, seven rebounds and a franchise-record seven blocked shots. Angel McCoughtry, Kayla McBride and Dearica Hamby added 11 points apiece for the Aces.
DeWanna Bonner scored 23 points to lead Connecticut, but she was 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over six times. Briann January added 20 points.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
1. Aces close strong
It was a game in which the lead changed hands 14 times and the score was tied 20 times. The last of those ties came after Brionna Jones’ jumper with 1:19 left for the Sun.
Wilson answered with a three-point play, and McCoughtry then got a steal and Danielle Robinson found Wilson for a layup and a foul. Wilson missed the free throw, but Hamby sneaked in for the offensive rebound and putback for a seven-point lead with 26.8 seconds to go.
“Just get a bucket,” Wilson said of what she was thinking in the final minute. “I knew that I needed to attack the basket and lead my team in this way.”
Before the final run, the Aces hadn’t led by more than four points in either game.
2. ‘That was their run’
The Sun pulled ahead 53-46 with 7:10 left in the third quarter after Bonner made two 3-pointers and January hit one in a 35-second span.
But the Aces then dug in defensively and didn’t allow consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter.
“We said, ‘That was their run.’ It was neck and neck until then, maybe (a four-point lead) or six at the highest,” Robinson said. “We knew that was their run, and we couldn’t let this one slide. We respected that they made their shots, but it was our turn to get some stops and turn this momentum around.”
3. Sun lose their leader
With 5:05 left in the first quarter, Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas went down with a right shoulder injury. She eventually returned to the bench with her arm in a sling, and her status for the rest of the series is unknown.
Thomas was the Sun’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder during the regular season, and she had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks in the Game 1 win.
“You never want to see somebody like that go down, especially Alyssa Thomas, who has been amazing and is a defensive player of the year candidate,” McBride said. “She’s the energy and the leader of that team on both ends of the floor.”