UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP)A historic effort from Alyssa Thomas helped the Connecticut Sun stave off elimination again.
Thomas had the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history, and the Sun beat the Las Vegas Aces 105-76 in Game 3 on Thursday night.
She finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for the Sun, who have now won all four of their elimination games in these playoffs, topping Dallas on the road in the first round and beating Chicago in Games 4 and 5 to close out that series.
”We’ve been struggling offensively and we finally got a game back at home and my teammates were hitting shots,” Thomas said. ”None of this would have been possible without them.”
Las Vegas leads the best-of-five series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday in Connecticut.
The Aces got off to a fast start, scoring nine of the first 11 points and forcing Connecticut to call a timeout. That settled the Sun down and they took over, outscoring the Aces 32-10 the rest of the quarter, including 25 of the final 29 points. Connecticut made 14 of its 17 shots in the period and DeWanna Bonner was a big reason why.
Bonner struggled in the first two games of the series, scoring five points total while missing 16 of her 18 shots. She had seven points in the opening 8 minutes on Thursday night and finished with 18.
”She was huge. She’s been here before. She’s won it. So, we lean on her,” Thomas said. ”And she’s been struggling offensively, but we had nothing but faith in her and she came out and did her thing tonight.”
Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 20 points.
Jones, Bonner and Thomas helped Connecticut dominate inside as the Sun set a Finals record with 64 points in the paint while holding Las Vegas to 26.
”That’s been the M.O. of the playoffs,” Jones said. ”Even the Chicago series, the team that won the paint, won the game. That’s where it’s done. A long time ago, I talked to Lisa Leslie and she said to win a championship you have to win the paint. I see it now and feel it now. I can go back to that and see she was right.”
Connecticut used that advantage to lead 53-34 with 1:44 left in the second quarter before the Aces closed the period by scoring the final nine points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Kelsey Plum from just inside half-court.
The Sun seized momentum back to start the third quarter, scoring the first five points. Las Vegas couldn’t get closer than six the rest of the game.
”That’s a team that is very resilient. If you could encapsulate Connecticut it’s physical and very resilient,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. ”They are physical and resilient and we didn’t match that tonight in any category.”
Jackie Young scored 22 points and A’ja Wilson added 19 for the Aces.
Las Vegas was thwarted in its first attempt at winning the franchise’s inaugural WNBA championship. The team had been in the Finals twice before and got swept in 2008 and 2020.
SHE SAID IT
”I went to a UFC fight the other night. … I would not want to get in the cage with her.” – Hammon on Thomas’ toughness.
Thomas now has three triple-doubles in her career – all this season. This was the third in WNBA playoff history. Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot and Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes had the others.
Former Aces president and coach Bill Laimbeer sat courtside. He took over the franchise when it moved to Las Vegas in 2018 before retiring at the end of last season. Laimbeer was instrumental in assembling the championship roster by drafting Wilson first in 2018 and getting Gray to come to the team last season as a free agent. … Aces owner Mark Davis sat on the baseline. … Had the Aces been able to complete the comeback, they would have broken the mark for biggest rally in WNBA Finals history. The New York Liberty came back from 18 down in 1999 against Houston when Teresa Weatherspoon hit a game-winning shot from half-court. Hammon played for the Liberty in that game.
Wilson and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart were unanimous choices for the All-WNBA first team that was announced Thursday. Plum also was on the first team as well as Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chicago’s Candace Parker. Thomas and Jones were on the second team along with New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, Los Angeles’s Nneka Ogwumike and Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles.
More WNBA playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-playoffs and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports