Though it occurred in mid-season, the Las Vegas Aces have their championship celebration.
Las Vegas was crowned Commissioner Cup champions after beating the Chicago Sky, 93-83, from Wintrust Arena Tuesday, July 26.
Guard Chelsea Gray was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“That was an amazing feeling,” she said. “It’s been a hard couple of weeks for me, I lost somebody close to me.
“My wife’s been amazing with helping me these last few weeks so it was a lot of emotions coming to a head. These teammates, they my dawgs man. They have my back and I wouldn’t be holding that MVP trophy without them.”
Gray was given the award after posting 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including nine points in the third quarter. She added five assists and four rebounds.
Earlier this month, Gray was the lone member of the Aces starting lineup to not be named an all-star. She claims the award in the same city where the all-star game was played.
Head coach Becky Hammon said after the game the team “missed her the last time [it] was in Chicago.”
“She’s the best point guard in the world,” guard Kelsey Plum said of Gray. “She’s the starting point guard on the olympic team, she’s an all-star, she’s an all-WNBA player. She’s the clutchest player in the WNBA, ask anyone, ask any [general manager], coach, player.”
Each member of the Las Vegas team wins $30,000 per player with Gray earning $5,000 additional bucks for taking home MVP honors.
In addition, the Aces claim the $500,000 prize pool for the ACLU of Nevada charity which it has played for all season long.
Since the all-star break, Las Vegas has six wins in seven outings.
“We had a little bit of a coming to Jesus moment,” Hammon said. “You can ask them, I mean, all I can tell you is we had a little meeting and basically, nine out of 10 times when I challenge these ladies, they respond.”
Though the game did not count toward regular season statistics, the win marked the team’s 11th win in 14 road games.
So far this season, the Aces and Sky have split both regular season meetings with one more left to play.
“There’s just a lot of basketball to be played between now and then,” Hammon said when asked about a potential Las Vegas-Chicago WNBA Finals matchup. “I think Seattle probably has something to say about that, Connecticut, Washington.”
Las Vegas continues its 13-day, six-game road trip by returning to its regular season schedule against the Indiana Fever. The Aces beat the Fever, 90-77, last week from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
“It’s a good win but at the same time this is just the beginning,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “This is nice and we’re going to enjoy it for 24 hours but then we have a bus ride to Indiana and we’ve got to turn the page and lock in for them.”
That game is scheduled for Thursday, July 28 with tip-off set for 4 p.m.
Plum led all scorers with 24 points on 8-of-17 from the field with a career-high six made three-pointers.
Her night included a 2-for-2 start from deep in the first 1:08 of the ballgame.
“I just felt really open,” Plum said. “I felt like we were moving the ball really well and I just happened to be the beneficiary of a lot of wide open looks. I came into the game telling myself to be really patient and just let it come to me and it came really early.”
By the 8:02-mark of the first quarter, she had her third three. She finished with 12 first quarter points on a perfect 4-for-4 from deep.
As a team, Las Vegas shot 9-of-21 from three-point range while holding Chicago to 6-of-30. The Sky’s night from long range started by missing the team’s first 10 attempts.
“Obviously, [Chicago guard Allie Quigley] is somebody you have to gameplan for,” Hammon said. “I thought some of them, even with [Chicago guard Courtney Vandersloot], they just missed.”
At the end of the first quarter, the Aces had built a 33-14 lead after scoring 41 points in the first 10 minutes during the last meeting between these two teams.
However, that night back in Las Vegas saw Chicago rally back from 28 points behind for the largest comeback win in WNBA history.
“It was big,” Wilson said when mentioning not allowing the Sky to repeat comeback efforts. “In the first quarter, we were in a situation where we’ve been here before and they’re probably saying the same exact thing.”
Though not ultimately successful, the Sky made multiple runs to cut into the lead. To close the second quarter, Chicago went on a 10-3 run to go into halftime down 14 after falling behind by 23 points, the largest of the game.
Another flurry came in the third quarter when the home team went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to single-digits for the first time since the 8:32-mark of the first quarter.
Chicago would eventually get the lead down to seven before playing Las Vegas even in the fourth quarter.
In that final frame, Wilson put the finishing touches on her 15th double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and hauling in 17 rebounds.
In addition, she tallied a season-high six blocks (one away from tying her career-high) and two steals.
“I thought A’ja was sensational,” Hammon said. “Six blocks? Seventeen boards, seventeen – I mean, there’s a lot of people that contributed.
“KP got us off to a hot start coming out. It was a full-team effort.”