Aces extend streak to six by beating defending champs
Almost a week away from the court couldn’t stop the Las Vegas Aces from extending its latest win streak.
Las Vegas beat the defending champion, Chicago Sky, 83-76, Saturday, May 28 from Wintrust Arena in Illinois.
“We didn’t shoot the greatest percentage from beyond the arc,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “Some out of character things offensively but defensively we were on point.”
That now makes six straight wins for the Aces as the team improves to 8-1 in the process. Currently, Las Vegas sports the best record in the league with the Washington Mystics being the second closest at 6-2.
Additionally, the team is now 3-1 on the road in the early going of the season.
“You always want to take care of homecourt,” Gray said. “But if you can snag some away games, that’s how you put yourself in good positions come playoff time.”
It also marked the team’s first contest since the tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas which took place Tuesday, May 24.
“It’s been difficult outside of basketball,” Gray said. “The stuff that’s happening is just heartbreaking. Those families, they dropped their kids off to school and they’re not picking them up. It’s scary the world that we live in.”
While Gray and Wilson admitted that it’s been hard to focus solely on basketball recently, the team continues to charge forward with another big matchup looming.
Las Vegas will host the 5-2 Connecticut Sun from the Michelob Ultra Arena Tuesday, May 31. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN.
Las Vegas seized control in this one after making a run following a 29-all tie.
“To hold that team to 15 points, really for two quarters,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “To hold that team to 76 points overall is a really good job. Our girls were locked in, that’s a really good cutting team and you didn’t see a lot of them getting layups from cutting.”
By the next television timeout, it was a 9-0 run for the road team.
Before the end of the first half, the Aces had built a lead as large as 13 points behind a 22-9 run to close the second quarter.
However, a lead that would grow to as many as 18 points would be cut down to single digits again.
“Listen, that’s a good team,” Gray said. “They’re defending champs so we came in here with respect but also, at the same time, we want to play the way we want to play each time we step on the court.”
The Sky would chop the lead in half by the end of the third quarter and down to as little as four points twice in the final frame.
In fact, Chicago had the lead down to four for the final time with less than 40 seconds left in regulation.
Even with the 23-17 advantage for the home team, Las Vegas did enough to hold on for the win.
“Fourth quarter execution was bad,” Gray said. “But it’s a learning experience. I’m glad we were able to pull it out and learn from it instead of losing it.”
Wilson had a career-night posting 22 points on 8-of-19 and tied a career-high with 16 rebounds.
“She’s doing a’ight,” Gray said with a smile. “I think it’s her activity. She’s not waiting for the moment when the person catches the ball to play defense, she’s active. Some of those things don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
At the start of the game, Wilson was responsible for six of the team’s first 10 points on the board.
By the third quarter, she snagged her 1,000th career rebound.
Hamby also recorded a double-double, posting 14 points and 14 rebounds. In addition, she got up 19 shot attempts.
“We just want her to be active,” Hammon said. “We always want her to be a screener and a cutter. She’s somebody that defenses are cheating off of some of the time, she finds ways to insert herself into the lineup.
“I didn’t call a single play for her tonight and she shot 19 times.”
Gray added 18 points on 6-of-12 from the field and found her success in the game when her team needed it most. She scored eight second quarter points in the first 2:54 of the 10-minute period.
Additionally, Gray added six straight points at the end of the third quarter after the lead had been cut in half.
“I think we know when the shots are coming,” she said. “We’re flowing and it’s so fluid that it’s not like we’re forcing a lot of things.”
Guard Kelsey Plum chipped in with 19 points as fellow guard Jackie Young added 10 points.
Gray, Plum and Young all recorded six assists apiece as well. Chicago had 16 assists as a team, with nobody recording more than three.
While all five starters scored in double-figures for Las Vegas, the team’s bench was held scoreless.
“It’s not very good to have zero points from your bench,” Hammon said. “But it is what it is. They’ll shoot better next time, they’re still going to get in the game. But nobody shot great tonight.”