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Aces hit gear in third quarter, run away from Lynx

Las Vegas players surround head coach Becky Hammon during a timeout of the team's win over Minnesota. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

One year after capturing the franchise’s first championship, this year’s Las Vegas Aces matched the best start in franchise history with four straight wins to start the new campaign with their most recent win.

Las Vegas disposed of Minnesota, 94-73, Sunday, May 28 from the Michelob Ultra Arena in the second of a back-to-back to open its home schedule. All four of the Aces wins this season have come by an average of 24.8 points per contest.

“It kind of tells me that A) We have a silly team but a mature and competitive team,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “They know how to have a good time but they also know how to buckle in and play when the lights come on.”

With two home games under their belt, Las Vegas will now head back to the road for a four-game road trip. That excursion begins with a Friday, June 2 matchup with the Atlanta Dream. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.

The Aces’ next home game will be in mid-June.

“I’m having tons of fun honestly,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I’ve been bored in the offseason because I have nothing to do, this is my excitement. Every single day I get to come to work with a bunch of women who are just like-minded and are just really good at what they do and I love that.”

Aces players Kelsey Plum and A'ja Wilson slap hands as the team improved to 4-0 to start the new year. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Las Vegas built a lead as large as 12 points in the first quarter and 14 points in the first half, but the team never could really pull away from Minnesota, who kept trimming the deficit to eight. However, back-to-back made threes from guard Jackie Young off assists from fellow guard Kelsey Plum changed the direction of the comeback.

The second made three from Young gave the Aces their largest lead of the game to that point at 17 points.

“We talk a lot about how [point guard] Chelsea [Gray] analyzes pick-and-rolls,” Hammon said. “But Kelsey is a huge part of our offense not only because of her shooting but her ability to get downhill. Jackie is someone who gets downhill to score, KP is getting downhill and making decisions on the fly.”

As a team, Las Vegas shot 8-for-18 from three in the second half after posting a 6-for-21 mark in the first. Not long after, the Aces would find themselves up by 20 points on the way to building a lead as large as 24 points before the final buzzer.

“We were getting the same shots,” forward Alysha Clark said. “They were all good shots, all good looks. We know as the season goes, some nights they’re going to fall and some nights they’re not but being able to score in multiple ways is going to be crucial for us and that’s something we do well.”

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray celebrates after one of her season-high 10 assists against Minnesota. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Gray recorded her first double-double of the season with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting with three made threes and 10 assists, six of which came in the first quarter.

“She does a wonderful job of reading what [the defense] is in,” Hammon said. “I think that’s a large part, just her IQ. They go zone and she got us into a zone offense, they went man and they switched it up frequently. I would say that was just her in analyzation mode.”

Las Vegas compiled 25 assists on 32 made field goals versus just 10 turnovers while forcing its opponent into 13 turnovers on the other end.

Young led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-13 from the field with four made threes to go along with six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Through the first four games this season, Young has 92 points and currently leads the Aces in scoring while ranking in the league’s top four.

Moreover, she has led the team in scoring or shared the team-high in points in three of the team’s four games.

“I think Jackie took the way people played her last season personal,” Wilson said. “She’s going to make you guard her now and I love that for her because they do need to guard her. It just gives us another threat we have on the court.”

Wilson chipped in with 21 points on 60% shooting highlighted by a 12-point first quarter while blocking two shots on the other end.

“As an opponent, she was always a headache,” Clark said. “So it’s definitely nice to be her teammate, for me, I’ve gotten to play alongside some really legendary, Hall-of-Fame post players in my career and I would put her right up there.”

Plum and Clark were the final players in double figures with 11 points apiece on a combined 9-of-24 from the floor with four made threes.


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