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Aces win in hostile environment, clinch top-four playoff seed

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray tries to race past Seattle guard Sue Bird at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

A potential future playoff matchup came down-to-the-wire as the Las Vegas Aces were able to pull away late, securing a top-four playoff spot.

The Aces survived hostile territory to take down the Seattle Storm, 89-81, Sunday, Aug. 7 from Climate Pledge Arena. The game was played in front of the largest crowd for a women’s basketball game in the state’s history.

“The way the last game ended – it made my stomach hurt,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I was sick. It was so annoying [...] I didn’t sleep the best, I still slept but I didn’t sleep the best.”

Las Vegas leads the season series 2-1 with one more game left to play against Seattle this season. That game will be played a week from today back at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.

“Nothing,” Wilson said. “This game; we played it, it’s good. [Seattle’s] going to make adjustments, we have to make adjustments as well. If we hone on this win and think that it’s going to be the same game in about a week, we’ve already shot ourselves in the foot.”

One game over .500 is how the Aces will end their 13-day, five-game road trip that also included the Commissioner’s Cup Final. The team is now 13-5 on the road this season.

“It’s always good to be playing your best basketball around this time,” Wilson said. “But on the defensive end, if you’re holding down your assignments and knowing your personnel, that’s 10 times better than what your offense is looking like.”

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson goes up for two of her team-high 29 points against Seattle Sunday, Aug. 7. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Sitting at 23-10 on the year, Las Vegas remains second in the WNBA, now two games back of the Chicago Sky for tops in the league.

The Aces will return home for a final three-game homestand that will conclude the regular season. That stretch begins with a Tuesday, Aug. 9 matchup against the Atlanta Dream.

Las Vegas never trailed in the second half of the win in Seattle, powered by a team-high 29 points from Wilson on 13-of-24 from the field including a made three-pointer.

“It could be boos, it could be [cheers],” Wilson said. “It’s like a buzzing noise [to me]. At the end of the day, we’re in tune with ourselves and my job is making sure my team just stays locked in at all times.” Wilson had it going early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter on 5-of-9 shooting. By halftime, she was up to 18 points.

Late in the game, it was guard Chelsea Gray who came up big, scoring nine the of team’s last 19 points.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray shoots a midrange jumper during the team's road win against Seattle. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“It’s all a part of the game,” Wilson said. “Understanding the game is a game of runs at the end of the day. You can’t get too high with your highs and you can’t get too low with your lows.”

With the team up six, Gray pulled off an and-one layup to get into double-figures at 11 points prior to the free throw make. Earlier in the second quarter, she scored the 3,000-point of her career.

Gray ended the night in triple-double territory with 16 points, nine assists and six rebounds in 32 minutes of action.

Guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young also chipped in with 15 points apiece on a combined 11-of-26 from the floor including 4-of-13 from deep and 10 assists.

Plum got her first three-point shot to fall late in the third quarter to put the Aces up six on the Storm. She hit a dagger three with 33.7 seconds left in regulation to give Las Vegas the nine-point edge, matching its largest of the game.

The Seattle duo of Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart combined for 54 points on 18-of-34 shooting. Charles scored 14 of her 18 points in the first half while Stewart scored 21 of her 35 in the second.

“Stewy is someone who's going to go down as one of the greats,” Wilson said. “When you can perform against her and play against her night-in and night-out, you’re getting better every possession.”

Both Stewart and Wilson are first and second in win shares in the WNBA.

Las Vegas held Stewart to just 2-of- 7 shooting in the first half but allowed her to get to the line 11 times, converting nine of them.

The Aces were able to pretty much nullify the guard tandem of Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd to the tune of 10 total points on 4-of-15 from the floor.

Las Vegas forward Dearica Hamby is hounded on defense by Seattle guard Sue Bird. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“When we see what we’re capable of, I think that’s when we realize how good we are on the defensive end,” Wilson said. “When we’re scrapping and we’re flying across the court, that’s us. It doesn’t look the prettiest but that’s us.”

The contest also marked the final regular season home game in the 20-year career of Bird.

“I wasn’t trying to crash Sue’s party,” Wilson said with a smile. “I mean, she invited me. She invited me to the party, I was just trying to have fun.”


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