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The Connecticut Sun might be down one game in the WNBA Finals after losing their first series opener of the postseason, but they haven’t lost confidence thanks to a stringent defensive effort in Game 1.
The Sun did what they hoped to do, holding the league’s No. 1 offense well below its season average. The top-seeded Las Vegas Aces averaged 90.4 points per game during the regular season and were scoring a playoff-best 92.3 per contest heading into the championship round.
On Sunday, the Sun held Las Vegas to its lowest point total of the postseason in the 67-64 loss, and Connecticut took confidence from that performance as it prepares for Tuesday’s Game 2.
“I mean, after this game, we have to have a lot of confidence,” forward Alyssa Thomas said. “I mean, this is a three-point game and we had a chance to tie. I think we are very confident and we know that all you need is one, and then there’s two games at our place. So yeah, there’s some things we can clean up. Of course, we can make more shots, but overall we played a hard game.”
Hard enough that Las Vegas shot just 39.7% from the floor, including 20.8% from 3-point range — both playoff lows.
In fact, the 67 points were the fewest Las Vegas scored all season, while there were only four other times the Aces shot worse from the floor, and one other time their long-range shooting was worse.
“They play so hard the entire game,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “That team is relentless, and so you can never let your foot off the gas.”
Which is what the Aces learned after building their biggest lead of the game in the first quarter, a 21-9 advantage that they slowly squandered as Connecticut turned the pace in its favor.
The Sun imposed their defensive will in the second quarter, opening the period on a 13-4 run to take a 30-29 lead while frustrating Las Vegas by blocking passing lanes, limiting space for league MVP A’ja Wilson and keeping the Aces away from the glass.
“As the game settled in, we found rhythms to get consecutive stops,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “Our defense settled in and got to our pillars, got to the game plan, and started to get the type of game that we feel we need in order to be successful.”
The problem for the Sun was they weren’t able to convert on several possessions, missing ample opportunities with shots they might normally make and that would have allowed them to create some separation going into halftime, rather than a four-point lead that could have easily been double digits.
“We came out, we played hard, and unfortunately they hit more shots than us and we didn’t get stops in a timely manner,” Thomas said. “But there’s a Game 2, and we will watch the video and be prepared for the next game.”