The Connecticut Sun were right there.
Following a 67-64 loss to the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday in Game 1
of the WNBA Finals, the general feeling around the team was one of
hope. There was disappointment, of course — these aren't players or
coaches that enjoy losing — but there was also a level of
satisfaction with their game plan.
Connecticut head coach Curt Miller laid it bare in his opening
statement following the game: "You know, [I'm] certainly
disappointed for our locker room with the loss, knowing that we did
so much that we wanted to accomplish defensively and got the game,
the style of play that we were hoping for."
Miller would reiterate that he was "really pleased with holding
that high-powered offense down and getting the style of play we
wanted. We are encouraged, but I'm disappointed that it didn't
equate to a win."
The Sun successfully brought the Aces, the second-most prolific
offense in WNBA history, into their neck of the woods. Into the
muck, into the mud. The Aces' mark of 67 points was a season low,
and their total of eight assists was easily a season low.
Connecticut was able to win the rebounding battle (38-33), double
Las Vegas in paint points (40-20) and hold the Aces scoreless in
transition while getting 12 points itself.
Aces head coach Becky Hammon called the Sun relentless after the
game. Aces star guard Chelsea Gray knew what the deal was.
"I mean, they want to muck it up. Like, that's their defensive
scheme," Gray told Basketball News when asked about her team's
"Second of all, I just have to do a better job of not turning
the basketball over. Ten turnovers [as a team] isn't bad, but I had
freaking six of them."
This is what Miller's Sun team does to people. They take the
"easy" off the table and make you earn it. But because of their
size advantage, they're able to expand their own margin for error.
They couldn't knock down enough shots to take Game 1 — a 5-of-16
clip (31.3%) from three didn't help — but the blueprint has been
clear all season.
Before Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, Basketball News was able to
briefly catch up with Miller to discuss the Sun's process on both
ends of the floor, as well as their last possession of Game 1.
Your defense is great, in large part due to the pressure
you put on ball-handlers. You're able to disrupt things when you
put two on the ball. The Aces are at their best when they're able
to draw two defenders and play out of that. How do you balance
sticking to what makes you great, and making sure the Aces don't
have those automatic reads?
Miller: "Trying to get a team as talented as
they are, out of rhythm is a challenge. You saw the first 4 to 6
minutes of the first quarter, and we couldn't cause any disruption.
They were just rolling. But then you look at the last 34
minutes, and I think we did a really good job.
"You know, they run a lot of NBA actions to try to get switches
and get matchups they want. It's very NBA-like. The challenge is:
When they run that, can you prevent them from getting what they
want and maintain the matchups and coverages that you
"That's going to be the chess match all series. It's not only
going to be the chess match all series; it's going to be the chess
match minute-to-minute. They're trying to manipulate our defense;
we're trying to manipulate their offense. It's going to be crazy,
and whoever's better over two hours each game probably gets away
with the win."
If I can transition to the offense...
Miller: "Oh, God!" (Laughs)
A point of conversation surrounding the Sun has been the
usage of Jonquel Jones. With her being as versatile as she is
offensively, how do you balance using her as a spacer and opening
up the floor for Alyssa Thomas and others, and getting her post
Miller: "We're best when we have balance. The
great part of our team — while everyone wants the ball and believe
they could get a touch every possession — we're at our best when
there's balance. JJ is really, really unselfish.
"At times, she could probably shoot through double teams and
take difficult shots. But she passes on some of those shots, so we
go from a good shot from her to a great shot from someone else. At
times, it's finding JJ that balance of — you have to be selfish
sometimes and demand the ball. Maybe a contested shot by her is
better than a different shot from someone else.
"But yeah, the versatility in her game allows us to have some
fun with Alyssa Thomas and opening up the floor and giving her some
space to work with."
Last thing, if you're able to get into it: The final
play call for DeWanna Bonner. From my angle, I couldn't tell if she
was coming off a stagger (two angled screens) or if it was an
Elevator play. Could you walk through what the play call
Miller: "We had a Side Elevator set up, but we
had a bad angle. We executed early in that [play] to get the
switch. We got a post player [Dearica Hamby] on DeWanna Bonner, and
with Bonner running in space ... we had it.
We had it!
"Our angle of the Elevator was not how the play was supposed to
be [executed]. Our players made a read on the angle of the
Elevator, but it wasn't the right read. We had it but
didn't get Hamby screened. If we get the right angle there, we had
the play executed."
To illustrate, here's the live possession:
The Sun really could've had it.