Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said he told his top-seeded team before the WNBA semifinal series against No. 7 seed Connecticut that he thought it would go the full five games. Angel McCoughtry made sure to prove her coach right.
The Aces’ veteran forward scored 16 of her 29 points in the third quarter, and the Aces avoided elimination with an 84-75 win in Game 4 on Sunday in Bradenton, Florida. The decisive Game 5 will be Tuesday, with the winner meeting the second-seeded Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals.
“Angel wasn’t ready to go home. It was fun to watch Angel play that third quarter,” Laimbeer said. “It was a spectacular performance to get us the lead, and we maintained the lead the rest of the way.”
The Aces trailed by one at halftime, but McCoughtry, who also had five rebounds, six assists and three steals, helped them pull away to as many as a 15-point lead in the third quarter.
A’ja Wilson finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Danielle Robinson helped the Aces speed up the pace to their liking and had 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Jasmine Thomas led Connecticut with 25 points. DeWanna Bonner had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
Help from the greats
McCoughtry’s performance came after getting “some great advice” in an Instagram message exchange with two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, who won a championship with Washington last year.
“She was great today with the advice she gave me,” said McCoughtry, who did not reveal what Delle Donne told her. “It just really helped out to hear from people who have been in this position and won it and done it.”
If Delle Donne’s advice wasn’t enough, McCoughtry said she saw Sue Bird at halftime and asked to hold her fellow WNBA legend’s hand to get some power.
“I hope that she doesn’t want it back,” McCoughtry said.
Biggest difference boards, turnovers
The Sun actually shot a higher percentage from the floor, 41.7 to 39.0 percent, than they did in Thursday’s 77-68 win in Game 3, but the Aces did a better job rebounding and avoiding turnovers.
On Thursday, the Sun grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and had a 15-4 edge in turnovers. The Aces allowed only six offensive rebounds and had a 12-7 advantage in turnovers in Game 4. That added up to the Aces taking eight more shots than the Sun.
The Aces were without two-time WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, who has a knee injury and will likely miss the rest of the playoffs. Laimbeer expected Hamby’s loss to be felt the most on the boards, but the Aces managed a near stalemate with Connecticut holding a 33-32 edge.
Bench shortens for Aces
The Aces were known as a team that relied on its bench in the regular season, but it was the starters who did almost all of the damage Sunday.
Some of that was to be expected with Hamby’s absence and the fact that Robinson, a former member of the bench brigade, was placed into the starting lineup before Game 2. But four starters played at least 30 minutes, and Wilson didn’t leave the game until the final 26 seconds.
Forward Emma Cannon played 11 minutes, the most she’s had in her short tenure with the Aces. She was the only bench player to receive more than 10. She had two of the Aces’ four bench points.
“Cannon gave us a really good physical presence for us, and that set the tone for the rest of the team,” Laimbeer said.