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‘We didn’t have it tonight’: Aces suffer first loss of season

Updated June 8, 2023 - 9:27 pm

Becky Hammon had seen enough.

The Aces coach pulled her starters with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter of what would become the team’s first loss of the season — a 94-77 defeat to the Connecticut Sun on Thursday in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“I just told them, ‘I’m not going to watch that kind of basketball,’” Hammon said.

She said she planned to sit the starters for the rest of the game, but they asked for one more chance to prove they still had some fight. For a brief moment, they cut their deficit to 10 points with one quarter to play.

It wasn’t enough. Behind veteran guard DeWanna Bonner’s career-best 41 points, the Sun fended off any comeback attempts.

The Aces (7-1) ended a run of 11 consecutive regular-season wins dating to last season with Thursday’s loss, which completed a four-game road trip. The winning streak was the second-longest in franchise history and the longest since the team moved to Las Vegas in 2018.

“Obviously, nobody’s out there trying to mess up or not play hard,” Hammon said. “We didn’t have it tonight — just didn’t have it. It’s really, for the most part, the first time that’s happened since I’ve been here.”

Guard Kelsey Plum led the Aces with 16 points, hitting 3 of 6 3-pointers for her first game with multiple 3s since May 27. Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson added 13 points and led the team with four assists, and guard Chelsea Gray added 12 points.

The loss was the first time the Aces have been held below 80 points since Aug. 2, 2022, when they lost 83-73 to the Washington Mystics. The Sun (7-2) shot 57.1 percent from 3, the third time in the past four games the Aces have allowed opponents to shoot 41 percent or better from beyond the arc.

The Aces return to Michelob Ultra Arena at noon Sunday to host the Chicago Sky.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. Bonner gets loose

Just two days ago, the Aces held Bonner to five points on 2-of-9 shooting. The two-time WNBA champion, who’s playing her 14th season, answered with a vengeance. She had 14 points in the first quarter Thursday.

Bonner made 16 of 23 shots from the floor and went 5-for-7 on 3s. The only other player to score 40 or more points on similar efficiency with as many made 3s was Cynthia Cooper-Dyke in 1997, the WNBA’s first season of existence.

“Once she gets going, she’s really hard to stop.” Gray said.

2. Injury scare

The Aces updated their injury report just hours before the game, listing leading scorer Jackie Young as questionable with a left ankle injury. Hammon said she landed awkwardly late in Tuesday’s 90-84 victory against the Sun.

“We want to use precaution and not do anything dangerous at this point,” Hammon said.

Young played 27 minutes Thursday, but only took five shots, including just one attempt in the first half. She also committed five turnovers.

3. Paint protection

The Aces dominated the interior Tuesday, outscoring Connecticut 48-34 in the paint.

The Sun paid the Aces back Thursday, winning the battle in the paint 40-24. Reigning sixth player of the year Brionna Jones was particularly efficient, scoring 12 points to provide some balance with Bonner.

Plum said the Sun did a good job pushing in transition and repeatedly got good position for offensive rebounds in the low post.

“We were more physical in the first game,” Plum said. “This game we weren’t as physical.”

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

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