Four clutch free throws from two of the three offseason additions for the Las Vegas Aces helped the team scathe off another close game to remain undefeated to start the new year.
Las Vegas beat Indiana, 84-80, Sunday, June 4 from the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the midst of this four-game road trip. This marks the first time through the first six games of the season that the Aces have been held to under 90 points.
“Just a tough battle on the road,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “It was a quick turnaround from Atlanta for us. I thought we did not come out ready to play, in the first quarter especially.”
That makes 10 straight wins for Las Vegas dating back to last season, two wins away from tying a franchise record of 12 straight victories. This season’s Aces are off to a 6-0 start including a 4-0 mark on the road with two more contests to play on this trip.
Next, Las Vegas will play two games in Connecticut against the Sun which will mark the first meeting between the two teams since playing in the WNBA Finals last September.
The first of the two back-to-back meetings will take place Tuesday, June 6 with tip-off slated for 4 p.m.
“If we walk into Connecticut and we give up a 28-point first quarter, we probably aren’t walking out with a win,” Hammon said. “So we have to learn from this, understand what kind of environment we’re walking into every night.”
Newly-acquired forwards Candace Parker and Alysha Clark knocked down some crucial free throws down-the-stretch en route to the four-point victory. Parker’s two free throws put her at a perfect 14-for-14 to start the season.
After Parker’s free throws, Indiana suffered an inability to be able to foul after Las Vegas inbounded the ball, losing more than 20 seconds. Clark was fouled with 1.1 ticks left in regulation before she put the Aces up, 84-80.
That capped a 23-9 run by the visitors to steal this one on the road.
“I thought [our execution] was good,” Hammon said. “I thought it was good on both sides of the ball. I thought we buckled in defensively, we were locked in to what we were doing. Offensively, you know, no turnovers. You give yourself a chance to win when you get stops and you take care of the ball.”
Guard Jackie Young made a layup with 58.1 left on the clock in the fourth quarter to give Las Vegas its first lead since the first quarter. With just over four minutes left, fellow guard Chelsea Gray had a successful and-one to tie the game at 72 apiece.
“We have confidence in each other,” Gray said. “We’re able to make plays not just offensively but defensively. We’re going to play off of each other no matter what and have that confidence and surrender yourself to the outcome.”
Indiana had its opponent in unfamiliar territory, building a 10-point lead over Las Vegas, something no team has done yet this season. Almost immediately after, the Aces would race out to an 8-0 run including back-to-back made three-pointers. Soon after that, the team would go scoreless for nearly three minutes.
It appeared bad things were headed in a worse direction as Young, a career 80-plus percent free throw shooter, missed a pair of third quarter free throws with a chance to break a 49-49 tie.
Las Vegas would cut the 10-point deficit to five once again on a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Indiana responded with a 5-0 run of its own to push it back to double-digits.
The Fever outshot the Aces from beyond-the-arc, going 11-of-19 from deep while holding the visitors to 4-for-21.
“Overall, on a night where we shoot 19% from three and still find a way to win,” Hammon said. “I like us in learning mode and pressure-building situations. We’re not where we want to be yet but we shouldn’t be.”
Forward A'ja Wilson scored 14 of her game-high 27 points on 10-of-18 from the field to go along with 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
“I thought she did great,” Hammon said. “Overall, we really took care of the paint in the second half. On a night where they pretty much shoot 60% on threes, we take care of the paint and we come out with the win.”
The first points by someone other than Wilson in the first quarter was Young at the 4:25-mark. From there, she’d score seven straight points on her way to 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
Both Wilson and Young combined for 28 of the team’s 38 first half points.
Gray finished in triple-double territory with 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists with two steals.
Guard Kelsey Plum struggled from the field, making four of her 15 attempts from the floor including going 0-for-6 from deep. She ended the night with nine points and three assists.