A never say die attitude helped the Las Vegas Aces force a decisive game five, surviving in hostile territory.
Las Vegas beat the Phoenix Mercury, 93-76, Wednesday, Oct. 6 from the Footprint Center in Arizona.
“Obviously a different outcome compared to the last game,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said. “A large part of that is certainly our effort [...] They didn’t put forth the effort in the last game, tonight they did. I thought one through 11, including [injured guard] Angel McCoughtry, were all in the game from start to finish.”
Last year’s team came back from a 2-1 deficit against the Connecticut Sun to reach the WNBA Finals.
Game five will take place in Las Vegas from the Michelob Ultra Arena Friday, Oct. 8.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We haven’t won anything,” Laimbeer said. “It’s 2-2 [...] We play the whole regular season, to play at home. [The Mercury] had their chance tonight and we’re going to get our chance to win the series on Friday night.”
The winner will host the Chicago Sky after defeating the Connecticut Sun 3-1 in the other semifinal matchup.
For the fourth straight game, Phoenix came out to a blistering start, leading 8-0 in the early going.
Las Vegas battled back to take a 35-34 lead with 6:40 left in the second quarter.
That marked the team’s first lead since game one.
Guard Chelsea Gray scored 10 of her season-high 22 points in the second quarter, leading an Aces’ offense that didn’t commit their first turnover until late in the first half.
“Guards win, I know I’ve said that in the past,” Laimbeer said. “They’re the ones with the ball in their hands a lot. I told Chelsea Gray when we watched the film and I made it very clear to her that she wasn’t aggressive enough offensively. She was settling and passing the ball when she should’ve been attacking or looking for her own shot.”
Gray helped push the lead to double-digits in the third quarter with her third of four made three-pointers.
She also tallied six assists.
Guard Riquna Williams scored 11 of her 17 points in the third quarter, highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers as Las Vegas built a lead as large as 27 points.
“You know she scored 50 points in a game once,” Laimbeer said. “So when she’s hot, she gets on fire and goes on streaks like that. She got two or three buckets that extended the lead for us and helped put the game away.”
Williams shot 7-of-10 from the field and added three steals.
During that third quarter, the Aces went on a 24-0 run to put a stranglehold on the game.
“That’s what it was? A 24-0 run?” Laimbeer said. “Wow, I didn’t know that. They missed some shots, we pushed the ball to get some easy baskets -- we got some steals for layups. [The Mercury] kind of put their heads down at that point, it happens during the course of the game -- they did it to us.”
As a team, Las Vegas shot 11-of-22 from the three-point line.
Guard Kelsey Plum added 20 points and six assists with three made threes.
Forward A’ja Wilson rebounded from some tough playoff performances with a 15-point, 12-rebound outing.
“A’ja struggled a little bit the last game and a half,” Laimbeer said. “She became very focused. She led yesterday’s practice and she doesn’t really do that. She got out in front and said, ‘OK, I’m taking charge of this practice right now’ and led the stretching. It was great to see.
“So she knew that she had to step up tonight also. She’s still going to go get her rebounds -- she’s a machine.”
Coming into the game, she was averaging 11.7 points per game this series.
Wilson scored back-to-back baskets in the first quarter but missed six of her next seven shot attempts.
She found her rhythm again late and completed an and-one to ice the game in the fourth quarter.
A night after finishing with a game-worst -31 plus/minus, Wilson posted a game-high +27 plus/minus.