September 28, 2020 

Angel McCoughtry dominates as Aces force a Game 5

McCoughtry pours in a game-high 29; Finals trip up for grabs in Tuesday’s Game 5

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PALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 27: Angel McCoughtry #35 of the Las Vegas Aces shoots the ball against the Connecticut Sun during Game Four of the Semifinals of the WNBA Playoffs on September 27, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Angel McCoughtry has already submitted some of the most impressive playoff scoring outings in league history. She added yet another signature performance to that list on Sunday.

Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer couldn’t hold back his laughter and a big smile after the game thinking about what he had just witnessed. “Angel wasn’t ready to go home,” he told reporters postgame. “That was fun to watch Angel play that third quarter. It was a spectacular performance to get us a lead. We maintained the lead the rest of the way.”  

Facing elimination in Sunday’s Game 4, McCoughtry delivered 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting to go with five rebounds, six assists, and three steals, setting up a winner-take-all Game 5 on Tuesday between the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun.

“It’s a big game,” McCoughtry said. “But it’s just one of those things where you’ve just gotta find the fun in it. Get in the zone. Like I said [in an ESPN interview aired during the broadcast], I got some great advice from [Washington Mystics forward and 2019 MVP] Elena Delle Donne…Just really helped out to hear from people who have been in this position, who have won it and done it. It was amazing to talk to her about that.” 

The Aces separated in the third quarter, outsourcing the Sun by 12 points to take a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter. McCoughtry was perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the period and scored or assisted on 22 of the team’s 28 points.

“We’ve had this confidence in Angel all season,” starting point guard Danielle Robinson said postgame. “We knew when the lights came on that she was going to be ready. We feed off her energy and her focus. She’s played in big-time games, and I think this was another special day for her.” 

McCoughtry shot 8-for-9 in the paint on Sunday compared to 1-for-9 shooting in the lane in Game 3. She got her second basket curling to the rim off a screen by Carolyn Swords. Alyssa Thomas was matched up with Swords, not A’ja Wilson, by that point after picking up two early fouls. As a possible result of that foul trouble, Thomas did not offer any resistance as a helper at the rim this time. 

McCoughtry got around DeWanna Bonner attacking quickly on the right side of the floor in the second quarter with a quick spin move before Beatrice Mompremier could close the gap to help Bonner out. 

McCoughtry beat an inattentive Bonner to fly in for a putback layup in the second quarter. Then in the third, she collected two steals and went coast to coast both times for layups in transition. She capitalized on her size advantage over Briann January to score out of a quick post up, and for about seven minutes, McCoughtry canned three jumpers over Bonner.

Searching for some kind of answer, Connecticut moved Alyssa Thomas onto McCoughtry instead. McCoughtry knocked down a few over Thomas, too. 

Led by efficient outings by McCoughtry and Wilson, the Aces as a whole got back to more of their winning formula seen throughout the regular season. Although they shot just 1-for-9 on 3-pointers, the Aces shot 53 percent on 2-pointers and got to the free-throw line 17 times. They turned it over just seven times and limited Connecticut to six offensive rebounds. 

Sun leading scorer DeWanna Bonner continued to struggle offensively. Through four games, she shot just 5-for-23 on 3-pointers and has been limited to 10 free throw attempts. In addition to keeping her off the foul line, Bonner has attempted just 12 shots at the rim thus far according to WNBA.com. The Sun shot 38 percent on 3-pointers as a team in Game 4, but Briann January struggled, shooting just 1-for-8.

Unfortunately for Las Vegas, back-to-back Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby was a late scratch after initially being listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday’s game. “She’s probably out for the rest of the playoffs,” Laimbeer said pregame. “Knee injury”. I believe in the first quarter [of Game 3]…She played with it the rest of the way. She played really hard, but it’s clear that she’s unable to play.” 

“Hamby will not play for the rest of the season,” ESPN’s Holly Rowe reported on Sunday’s broadcast. “We told you last game she was fighting through a quad injury. But in that game, she also suffered a new knee injury that will keep her out for the rest of the season. She did come back and play the entire second half with a torn ligament in that knee trying to will her team to a win.”

The Aces will need big performances from Wilson and McCoughtry again in Game 5 and ought to feel good about having two players that can go get them a basket in such a high-stakes environment. According to WNBA.com, that duo shot 10-for-19 in the clutch—in the final five minutes of games decided by five points or less—in the regular season; Bonner and Alyssa Thomas shot 8-for-33 but did combine for 19 free throw attempts (compared to six for the Las Vegas duo).    

Robinson also stepped up in Game 4, scoring 18 points along with four assists in 36 minutes. The veteran point guard hit two pull-up jumpers and turned the corner once for a layup in pick and roll. Robinson and McCoughtry got the Aces’ running game going on Sunday. That duo combined to convert seven layups in transition on Sunday. The Aces were credited in the box scores for 12 total fastbreak points in Games 1, 2, and 3 combined—six in each of the first two games and zero in Game 3.  

Swords logged a season-high 27 minutes, and Emma Cannon played 11 minutes off the bench to account for Hamby’s absence. Laimbeer noted that his team will miss Hamby’s presence on the defensive end in particular. He credited Cannon for giving the team a physical presence in her first extended run in a competitive game with the Aces. Cannon logged less than a minute in the regular-season finale and played 10 minutes in the Game 1 blowout loss after signing with the team earlier this month

The Seattle Storm put the finishing touches on a series sweep on Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Lynx to advance to their second WNBA Finals in three years. Seattle will await Tuesday’s Game 5 (7:30 PM ET, ESPN2) winner. The 2020 WNBA Finals are slated to begin on Friday, October 2. 

Written by Ben Dull

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