Aces win Game 2, one win away from first title in franchise history
Las Vegas’ stingy ways on defense helped the team take a commanding 2-0 lead over Connecticut following a win in Game 2.
The Aces downed the Sun, 85-71, Tuesday, Sept. 13 from the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. With the win, the team improves to 5-1 at home during this postseason.
“I don’t see any banners,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “I don’t see any balloons. Sure as hell glad I didn’t see that confetti because we haven’t won nothing yet.”
Hammon is one win away from capturing a title in her first season as head coach.
“It’s about putting these ladies in a position to win a championship,” she said. “That’s been my focus. That’s why I took this job.
“I’m used to people not picking me, I don’t know if you’re aware,” the undrafted Hall-of-Famer added.
This season, Las Vegas is 4-1 against Connecticut while now being one win away from capturing the first title in franchise history. For the second straight game, the team saw its home venue sell out.
The potential clinching moment for the Aces could come on the road as the team will not return home unless the Sun force a do-or-die Game 5 back at The House.
“I would say not looking too far ahead,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “It’s the little things that get the win [...] It's rebounding, it’s playing for each other, it’s one more pass, one more play. That’s what we’ve been doing all playoffs and we have to be ready to do that for Game 3.”
Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 15 from the Mohegan Sun Arena with tipoff slated for 6 p.m.
A return to form for guard Kelsey Plum provided a much-needed spark to this Aces offense.
“I told her, ‘She needs to get her shit together,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “At the end of the day, that’s what she needs to do. We drafted her to do that so I made sure she understood that we need her to make shots.”
Plum scored 11 of her 13 first half points in the second quarter while the team managed to build a lead as large as 14 points.
Las Vegas began to pull away from Connecticut after six ties in the first 6:15 of the game.
In the third quarter, Plum reached the 20-point threshold for the first time since Game 1 of the team’s WNBA semifinal series against the Seattle Storm.
“Shooters shoot,” Plum said. “I don’t think there’s necessarily anything that I’ve done differently. I do my same routines, I eat the same thing, I go to bed at the same time – sometimes shots fall and sometimes they don’t.”
Her scoring stretch in the third quarter helped the Aces withstand an 18-8 run by the Sun that went back to the second quarter.
“It starts on the defensive end and our defense sucks,” Hammon said when asked what she told the team during a third quarter timeout. “Then they went out and didn’t suck.”
Plum also dished out seven of the team’s 21 assists on the night. Those 21 assists came on 34 made field goals for Las Vegas.
Gray led the team with eight assists on the night to go along with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting to go along with three steals. In the fourth quarter, she knocked down a three-pointer plus the foul in the fourth quarter to put the home team up 20.
“It’s not just about yourself, it’s about the bigger picture,” Gray said. “I think what sets me apart is my willingness to be great. Not just the points, the assists, the rebounds and the nice passes but how do I make the player next to me want to play with me.”
Wilson became the first person to post a fifth straight playoff double-double, ending the night with 26 points on 10-of-13 from the field to go along with ten rebounds. Eighteen of her 26 points came in the first half.
“You can say it’s a run but she’s done that all season,” Plum said. “I feel like she’s been the most consistent player, night-in and night-out, offensively and defensively in this league – that’s why she’s the MVP.
“A lot of times when we’re watching greatness, we don’t appreciate it in live time. We have to wait until someone is done playing but it is absolutely a treat to see what she’s doing.”
Wilson’s stellar play helped the Aces win the points in the paint battle, 46-28.
“I was just very happy with our paint defense,” Hammon said. “The fact that we were getting downhill in the paint offensively honestly helped us.”