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Aces move into tie for first place after taking season series from Sky

Las Vegas guard Jackie Young flashes three fingers to the fans at the Michelob Ultra Arena Thursday night. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

The Las Vegas Aces didn’t squander away their chance to slide into the first spot in the WNBA, adding another statement win to their resume in the process.

Las Vegas won the third and final official meeting of the regular season away from the Chicago Sky, 89-78, Thursday, Aug. 11 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

“That’s something that Chicago has that I admire the most,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Their ability to take a punch and their resiliency – they never go away. They just keep coming and keep coming and stay solid.”

Officially, the Aces took two of the three meetings against the Sky this year, not including the Commissioner’s Cup final which was won by Las Vegas as well.

As it stands presently, the Aces are 25-10 on the year and have won seven of their last 10 games. Though tied with the Sky atop the standings, the Aces now hold the tiebreaker.

One more regular season game remains on the schedule with the Seattle Storm set to come to town for a Sunday matinee from The House.

“At the end of the day, we still ain’t won shit,” Hammon said. “No one here wants to [just] take first place in the regular season. Fine, we did that – maybe we do, maybe we don’t. It’s not the goal, the goal is to be the last team standing. Not in the regular season but in the playoffs.”

Las Vegas guard Jackie Young hangs in the air for a midrange jumpshot against Chicago. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Tip-off is scheduled for noon and is slated to be the final regular season game in the career of future Hall-of-Famer Sue Bird.

Las Vegas is 12-5 at home this season.

From the jump of this one, the Aces managed to frustrate and disrupt the Sky’s offense forcing multiple mistakes.

“[Chicago guard Courtney Vandersloot] is still one of the best point guards this league has ever seen,” Hammon said. “I stand by my statement on that, I don’t care how many times she turned it over.”

Las Vegas forced Chicago into five first quarter turnovers on the way to 17 in the game, six from Vandersloot, while committing nine on the other end.

Even when the Sky were able to get up shots, the Aces worked to make sure they were not clean looks. Las Vegas held Chicago to 6-of-16 shooting in the first 10 minutes.

The Aces were able to build a lead as large as 14 points in the first quarter and 16 points in the first half. The team had to fight off a feverous comeback from Chicago that cut the lead down to six multiple times in the second half.

Earlier this season, the Sky came back from 28 points back to complete the largest comeback in WNBA history in a road win at Michelob Ultra Arena.

“Being in tough situations,” Hammon said. “Being in tight games, that’s the only way you can build it because you can’t simulate it otherwise [...] I’m starting to see that [resiliency, never go away factor and composure] in our team so that’s a really bright spot for us moving forward.”

Las Vegas would withstand the run and go on a 15-5 run to capture its largest lead of the game at 18 points. Chicago led for 1:01 of the game and led by as many as two points.

To shut the door, the Aces defense held the Sky to 17 fourth quarter points, the third quarter of the game where the team failed to reach 20 or more points.

“When we did start to get some separation it was because we were playing out of our defense,” Hammon said. “To hold a team like that, for three quarters, in the teens is very, very difficult to do.”

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum looks past the Chicago defense toward teammate Chelsea Gray. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

Guard Kelsey Plum shined bright in the first half scoring 18 of her game-high 25 points in the first two quarters. She shot 8-of-13 from the field including 4-of-5 from three-point range while also tallying five assists.

“Plum’s ability to get in the paint and get downhill and her rim reads are becoming next level,” Hammon said. “She’s getting downhill on people at will, obviously they’re paranoid about her three-point shot so it really opens other parts of her game."

Plum’s hot shooting helped carry the Aces to a 9-of-21-mark from deep while holding the Sky to 3-of-21 on the other end.

Aces guard Riquna Williams rises up for two of her 12 points off-the-bench. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Guard Jackie Young used a 16-point third quarter to catapult her to a 22-point performance on 8-of-19 from the field.

“I just tried to be aggressive and get us going,” she said. “We came out a bit flat and I got the ball and was just trying to be aggressive and Becky told me to ‘keep going.’”

Forward A’ja Wilson and reserve guard Riquna Williams both added 12 points, the latter of which came from the bench as part of a 15-11 advantage for Las Vegas role players.

This performance comes a day after learning two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby would miss two to four week with a right knee bone contusion.

“It’s never any pressure,” Williams said. “We’re reminded daily how important the bench is. We can’t win without the bench.”


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