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Top-seeded Aces fall to Sun in Game 1 of semifinals

With a week off between the regular season and their first playoff game, the question for the Aces was whether they could stay sharp.

They got their answer Sunday, and it wasn’t the one they were hoping for.

Jasmine Thomas scored a career-high 31 points, and the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun dominated the top-seeded Aces in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals in an 87-62 win at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

“We got beat. We got beat soundly,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They came and played harder than us.

”You could tell from the early part of the game that we really didn’t have any cohesiveness about our offense for whatever reason. There are no excuses.”

Game 2 will be played at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Game 1 of the other semifinal between Seattle and Minnesota was postponed Sunday because of inconclusive COVID-19 tests from some of Seattle’s players.

The Aces’ point total was 16 less than their regular-season low. They shot 33.8 percent from the floor, including 1-for-14 from 3-point range. A’ja Wilson had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Aces in her first game after being named the WNBA MVP, and Jackie Young came alive with all 17 of her points in the second half.

Alyssa Thomas had 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks for Connecticut, which has won its three playoff games by an average of 17.3 points.

Jasmine Thomas 31, Aces 31

With 3:53 left in the third quarter, Jasmine Thomas made a layup for her final basket of the game and gave her as many points as the Aces as a team with Connecticut leading 55-31.

She finished 13-for-18 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range, and had two individual 7-0 runs in the second quarter to help the Sun build a 36-25 halftime advantage.

“Jasmine is a proven point guard in this league,” Aces guard Kayla McBride said. “She’s an all-star, she’s a defensive player. She does a lot of different things. We know they’re a dangerous team, and she’s the head of that snake along with Alyssa Thomas.”

Bench Mob mostly quiet

The Aces hoped to use its historically productive bench to speed up the tempo and wear the Sun down, but that never happened.

Young’s late production gave the Aces a 29-24 edge in bench points, but they only got five in the first half. Dearica Hamby, who was announced Sunday as the Sixth Woman of the Year for the second straight season, scored four points in 23 minutes.

“We didn’t push the pace. We kind of walked through everything,” Laimbeer said. “That was the biggest problem I had the whole game until the fourth quarter.

“That’s not who we are. We push pace. We attack and move, and that just didn’t happen.”

Natisha Hiedeman led the Connecticut bench with 14 points on 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

Offense affects defense

As the Aces’ frustration mounted with missing shots, it began to affect them on defense.

The Sun took advantage by shooting 50 percent for the game despite a subpar game of 2-for-12 from DeWanna Bonner, its leading scorer for the season.

Connecticut also controlled the boards 39-29 and finished with 10 steals among the Aces’ 14 turnovers.

“They’re big and they’re long,” Laimbeer said. “That’s one of the keys to any playoff series is controlling the rebounds, and we didn’t do that. We were just a step slow everywhere on the court. It was like we were running in mud.”

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

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