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September 15, 2022

Curt Miller

Connecticut Sun

Game 3: Postgame

Connecticut Sun 105, Las Vegas Aces 76

CURT MILLER: I won a bet. Needed to wear the "Belief" hat in here for a second.

Proud, you know, of our start tonight. Huge win. The energy in that first quarter was just terrific in what we've been looking for in this series.

Vegas didn't go away. Threw some punches there late in the second quarter. So once again our start in the third quarter really got us back on track and set the tone for a huge home victory. Can't be more proud of how we played on both ends of the balls. AT'S triple-double and DB's energy from the start was huge.

But it was a team contribution. We got contributions from everyone. So excited, get a day off, get back to work and looking forward to Game 4.

Q. Looking at Jonquel and how she established herself, it felt like she was active in ducking in and finding dives to the rim. Was that an adjustment or something she felt out herself?

CURT MILLER: She was so physical tonight. Demanded the basketball. Active off the basketball in their rotations. You just saw a determined JJ the entire time, a physical JJ, and just determined. Just really, really impressive performance and that came through a ton of foul difficulties, not getting a ton in the first half. Just really proud with how she played.

Q. Aces jumped out to 9-2 lead to start the game and you called time-out and you guys were able to go on a huge run from there. What was said in the time-out and what did that look like for the team?

CURT MILLER: They threw the first punch. We didn't have a great first two minutes but we settled down. The team, the veterans were talking to themselves before I even got into the huddle going, we're okay, we have to settle in. We made a couple plays and the game settled in and we were fine.

Again, the message was, we had to be ready to play coming out of the time-out but the game settled in. Their confidence and unwavering that they were okay to each other was important in that time-out.

Q. Just how similar did that feel to Game 4 in the semifinals with that energy with you guys backs against the wall in the elimination game and what about this group and their mentality allows them to thrive in those moments?

CURT MILLER: That's a gritty team, and when you tell them they can't do something, it's going to make them try even harder and compete like crazy. There's just so much pride in that locker room that we are who we are. They thrive when their backs are against the wall and they thrive when someone tells them they can't do something.

Q. Before the game, you had said that you hoped that y'all forced the Aces to have a time-out and I know you talked about it a little bit there, but were you in a way thankful for the way it unfolded and the fact that you got that second to say whatever you needed to say and for players to talk to each other? What were you thinking? I know you said that right before the game.

CURT MILLER: I was frustrated but not discouraged. We've been in that situation before. We are in our home building. We just needed to not lose contact with them before the game settled in. Just taking a deep breath. It's scary to take a time-out that quickly knowing that you have an eight-minute quarter the rest of the quarter without a time-out. But it was needed and we gathered ourselves, and again, the veterans led through that huddle.

Q. Becky said you weren't doing a lot different but doing it much harder. Would you agree with that assessment, and also, what is it? Is it continuity? Is it beyond simple pride that allows this team to find a level where you score 105 here and 104 in Chicago with your backs against the wall?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, I agree with Becky's assessment. We did a lot of things better, harder, more determined. Obviously we made some scheming adjustments on both sides of the ball that I think have helped us.

But in common things, you're not going to go away from who you are and who you've been for over 40-plus games, but we did them better tonight with more confidence, with more pace, with more determination, and more physicality. We got in the paint tonight and flipped it back again. They were terrific from the arc in stretches but we were winning the points in the paint. I don't know what we got to in Chicago, 66, something-60. We were very much in that same ballpark again.

Q. This morning when we were talking, you said you didn't necessarily hate the last two games, the first quarters the last two games but shots just weren't falling. Were those shots just falling tonight or was that one of those tweaks to get better shots tonight?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, I thought certainly we made some shots and when we were down 9-2, we had taken, like our first two shots of the games were threes, and we talked about establishing the paint and our first two shots were threes. So you know, I was on them early that we have to play inside-out and those threes will come and we'll make our threes but we have to establish the paint. And we started to make shots, and we had a fantastic offensive first quarter at shot-making but I thought there was a determination after that time-out to get a good quality shot.

Q. If you care to share, what was the bet that you were wearing the hat for --

CURT MILLER: Come on, you know I'm not going to share the bet, but "Belief." Obviously, the big picture was that we believe, and we don't care what anyone is saying. We are trying to block out that noise and the word right now is "Belief."

Q. How big was it to have DeWanna have a game? She had struggled the first two.

CURT MILLER: She's such a veteran, respected presence in our locker room. You know, there's no secret that she has championship pedigree and has played on some great teams. And so we have a group that really looks up to her. So when she plays with energy, when she took on challenges that we asked her, you know, and challenged her going into this game and she took them head on and played with that energy and then played with offensive efficiency, it just gives the rest of our crew so much confidence.

Q. Did Alyssa Thomas know about making history before they announced it in the arena? And what was her reaction to it when she did find out?

CURT MILLER: I don't honestly know. But with this group, they typically know as AT approaches triple-doubles or has a triple-double, most of the time our players know and have a good feel for that.

But I don't know if AT knew it in the moment; if someone shared that with her. So I can't really give you that great answer.

Q. I know "toughness" can be an overused word sometimes, but have you ever coached a tougher player than AT in your career?

CURT MILLER: No. And what's remarkable, you guys, is that's every day. She doesn't know how else to play. So if we are playing, and we are not going 75 percent or we're not skeleton or we're not doing something 50 percent, if we are playing, that's how AT plays. And that's what's different.

She's probably the toughest player I've ever coached, but she's the most consistent player in terms of effort that I've ever been around. I know what I'm going to get every single day if that's how she plays and that's what makes her special. She doesn't know how to play other than that way.

Q. Putting DeWanna on Chelsea, what did you see in the previous two games and what made you decide to do that this time?

CURT MILLER: Length. Length. Chelsea Gray's numbers are historic right now on contested shots. So we are pleased going into tonight, two games, 27 of her 33 shots in this series had been contested. 27 contested shots. So we were staying in place with her, trying to make them difficult but she has an incredible release point and incredible knack of scoring while contested. So we decided a little bit more length on her, and we knew everyone's going to guard her, everyone's going to guard her tonight. But let's put some length on her.

Q. Can you talk about the play of Jonquel Jones, particularly in the third quarter when you guys started to open up things a little bit?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, it wasn't necessarily play calls that were exclusively for her. You know, as I always say, players help themselves. JJ demanded, had determination, to get catches. She was aggressive and active off the ball and made herself available to a secondary pass. I mean, we had 32 assists tonight, 32, and so again, we were sharing the basketball. That's when we are at our best, and she just -- she played with energy in that third quarter and was terrific.

Q. I know you touched on this a second ago with Alyssa Thomas, but when she records this triple-double within the flow of the offense, not trying to do too much and stays within your style of play, how does it make you feel as a coach?

CURT MILLER: We put the ball in her hands a lot tonight, and when things work as a coach, you feel really good that you pushed some right buttons.

But she's so unselfish. You know, her and Candace are the two best facilitating forwards in the world, and it's just really fun to watch non-point guards share it. And tonight, she just sprayed the ball around all night, and it was fantastic to watch.

Q. Earlier before the game, you talked about balancing just being loose and having fun and then also being disciplined. Can you talk about just what discipline you saw from your group, especially as the Aces closed out the third quarter with some momentum and then heading into that fourth?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, I thought our group was poised. Threw some of the punches back. You know, like we threw a couple of knockouts in that first half and all of a sudden it was an 11-point game. So there was poise coming out of halftime. There was poise during the runs in the second half, a maturity that even when they scored, they were confident with what we had planned and what we tried to scheme differently tonight. And they just stuck to it and they stuck to the discipline, even through some of those stretches where they were scoring. Sometimes you overreact and you lose some of your discipline because you get a little bit anxious that they are having success. We stay disciplined and we stay poised all night.

Q. Just a quick follow-up, can you talk about Alyssa Thomas specifically and the discipline she showed tonight?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, I mean, she was, you know, very disruptive defensively. Offensively she played within herself. She looked for her own offense but again was so unselfish spraying the ball around, which was so important. We put the ball in her hands a lot tonight.

Q. I'm just curious what this game represents for your team.

CURT MILLER: That's a good question. Toughness. You know, a grit, a fight, that we're not going to go away; that we are going to force Vegas to beat us, and you know, it just uncanny how much adversity this team's had: Two ACL injuries, losing your leader in the locker room right off the bat, for the third year in a row have something we have to pivot from, adversity within our locker rooms, COVID, the passing of my mother, you know, the daily grind that you deal with in a WNBA locker room, all the adversity that we have overcome to put ourselves in this position is just -- I'm so proud of them that they just continue to have a grit and a fight and a determination about them.

Q. You guys had 32 assists on your 43 made field goals today. Can you speak to the pace of play and the patience in that in your read and react offense today in the halfcourt?

CURT MILLER: Yeah, again, we shared the ball terrifically tonight. We were aggressive in and out of actions. I thought we played with a better, more successful tempo tonight. I thought the ball stuck at times in Games 1 and 2. We slowed down to a fault.

And again, some of the physicality of our screens, but our tempo was better which really contributed to the high assist totals.

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