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Chelsea Gray says Aces will adjust to Sun’s trapping defense

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Aces point guard Chelsea Gray knows the trap is coming. She already has seen it all.

“They were sending doubles at random times, doubles and triples in pick-and-roll actions,” Gray said. “I was just seeing a lot of bodies.”

Gray has been one of the two main offensive focal points for the Aces during their postseason run, along with MVP A’ja Wilson. Gray has torched defenses, hitting clutch shots and serving as the Aces’ No. 1 option late in close games.

Until Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun, no one knew how to slow her.

“I’ll take Chelsea Gray any day on my team, at any moment of the game,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said.

After suffering a 29-point loss in Game 3, the Aces will try again Sunday to win the franchise’s first championship — and become the first major league professional sports franchise in Las Vegas history to win a title. They lead the best-of-five series 2-1, with Game 4 at 1 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Gray has continued to shine in the playoffs after a strong second half of the season. She scored 27 points in Game 2 of the Aces’ first-round series-clinching victory over the Phoenix Mercury. She then scored 29 and 31 in consecutive games as the Aces eliminated the Seattle Storm in the semifinals.

In the first two games of the finals, the Sun didn’t seem to have an answer for Gray, either. She scored 21 points in Game 1 and Game 2 despite the harrying defense of Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman.

“On nine of her baskets, we got a hand up,” Sun coach Curt Miller said after Game 2. “We got into her space as well as we could.”

The Sun added a wrinkle to their defensive scheme that limited Gray in Game 3. Specifically, Miller switched 6-foot-4-inch wing DeWanna Bonner onto Gray.

Gray, listed at 5-11, had a 3-inch height advantage over Hiedeman. Bonner’s length bothered Gray the entire game, but especially when the Sun blitzed Gray in the pick and roll.

“It was a different angle in those traps,” Gray said. “We’ll make adjustments offensively.”

The pressure forced the ball out of Gray’s hands. She hit 4 of 7 shots — 3 of 4 on 3-pointers — and scored 11 points. But it was the first time she took fewer than 13 shots in a game since the first round of the playoffs. She also had four turnovers.

Reserve guard Riquna Williams said the Aces need to communicate and make sure they are in the right spots for Gray. Williams also said the team has to match Connecticut’s physicality.

“If we hit first and screen harder, maybe they’ll pull off the trap,” she said.

Gray said she thinks the Aces simply need to raise their level of intensity. Game 3 was a reminder that the Sun are a resilient, veteran team, and if the Aces want to avoid returning to Las Vegas for a decisive Game 5, they need Gray — their closer — to finish the job.

“We’ll be fine for Game 4,” she said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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