The Las Vegas Aces needed someone else to step up and take the pressure off of league MVP and do-it-all star A’ja Wilson.
They got it from veteran Angel McCoughtry with their backs against the wall on Sunday. The No. 1-seeded Aces defeated No. 7 Connecticut Sun 84-75 in the semifinals to force the deciding Game 5.
McCoughtry scored a game-high 29 points, 16 of which came in the deciding third quarter of what’s been a tight four games. She added five rebounds, six assists and three steals in 33 minutes on the floor. She had played around 20 minutes per game so far in the series.
The Aces have had to rely solely on Wilson through the first three games. This time around, McCoughtry took on most of the work, taking nearly half of Las Vegas’ attempts. Wilson scored a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Danielle Robinson added 18 for a playoff career high.
Jasmine Thomas, who led Game 1 with a career-high 31 points, paced the Sun with 25 points. DeWanna Bonner controlled the first half with a double-double before the break. She had 10 points and 15 rebounds in the first half, but had only three rebounds in the second half.
Game 5 will be played Tuesday night on ESPN2.
Angel McCoughtry takes over second half
McCoughtry took over the third quarter, scoring 16 points as the Aces outscored the Sun, 28-16. They entered the fourth quarter with a 65-54 lead that they never let the Sun back into it.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 27, 2020
The Aces built the largest lead of the game for either team, 65-60, with 90 seconds left in the quarter. They finished up, 65-54, and kept Bonner to zero points and two rebounds. Bonner had nearly outrebounded the entire Aces team (15) in the first half with 12 rebounds alongside 10 points in a full 20 minutes.
McCoughtry is a five-time All-Star and led the Atlanta Dream to three WNBA Finals in 2010, 2011 and 2013. But the former No. 1 pick out of Louisville is still looking for her first WNBA championship to go along with two Olympic gold medals with Team USA and multiple overseas trophies.
Prior to Game 4, she told ESPN she touched base with Team USA teammate Elena Delle Donne, who won her first WNBA title last year with the Washington Mystics.
— espnW (@espnW) September 27, 2020
In the Aces’ announcement for her signing this offseason, coach Bill Laimbeer said she brings them “another step closer to our goal of bringing a championship to the city of Las Vegas.” Without her in the third, their hopes for a first title would already be extinguished.
What went well for Aces in Game 4
The Aces won the turnover battle, 12-7, and bettered their rebounding in the second half to finish around even (33-32, Sun). McCoughtry’s shooting was what the team needed, rather than relying on Wilson only. Wilson can hit the shot over three defenders, but a victory is unlikely if one person is the one carrying the weight of a series.
They shot 47.9 percent against the defensively driven squad and were able to drive up the score. In the two games of the series that the Aces and Sun have both scored at least 20 points in the first quarter, the Aces have won. The Sun won games with first-quarter scores of 14-10 and 19-18.
The Sun led at the first break once again, 24-22, in Game 4 and at the half, 38-37.
The Aces were also able to win in the paint — their speciality as they rarely take 3-pointers — and that’s become a deciding factor between the teams, via Alexa Philippou of the Hartford Courant.
Each team that has won the battle in the paint this series has won the game.
Game 1: CT 40-36, CT wins
Game 2: LV 52-20, LV wins
Game 3: CT 52-26, CT wins
Game 4: LV 46-20, LV wins
— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) September 27, 2020
Aces without Sixth Woman Dearica Hamby
Dearica Hamby, the back-to-back Sixth Woman of the Year, did not play in Game 4 due to a torn ligament in her right knee. She is not expected to play again this season, Laimbeer said on a Zoom call ahead of the game.
Laimbeer said he thinks the 6-foot-3 forward suffered the injury in the first quarter of Game 3. Hamby continued to play, though she scored only four points with no rebounds or assists in 23 minutes.
Hamby, 26, averaged 13.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals playing all 22 games of the regular season. Her defense is a strong point of her game, and it was missed against the Sun.
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