Dominant from start to finish in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, the Las Vegas Aces are now one win away from a historic repeat championship.
Las Vegas thrashed New York, 104-76, Wednesday, Oct. 11 from the Michelob Ultra Arena to remain undefeated along this playoff run through seven games. Overall, the team has now won 11 straight games dating back to the regular season.
“Those girls hooped today,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Just hooped.”
Now up 2-0 in this year’s Finals, the Aces will now head to Brooklyn for Game 3 and potentially a Game 4. A win in either game will secure a second straight championship for a franchise that went its first 25 years without one.
Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15 from the Barclays Center with tip-off set for 12 p.m.
“It was a great performance,” Hammon said. “That being said, my job is to keep us on the straight and narrow and with the understanding that we’ve gotten thumped in their building twice.”
It was another runaway third quarter for Las Vegas that led to a second straight win over New York. After leading by eight at halftime, the Aces used a 17-3 start to the frame which they ultimately won 28-13.
“We know what we’re playing for,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “The biggest thing when you’re approaching this game and a series is keeping the main thing the main thing and understanding that basketball is a game of runs.”
Long before the third quarter, Las Vegas went up 10 points in the first two minutes of the game en route to a 21-point first quarter lead, putting up a 38-point Finals record-setting quarter. By the final buzzer, the team went up by as many as 32 points.
New York got back into the game with a fiery second frame that saw the team cut the once 20-plus point deficit to as little as seven points. The first made field goal from all-star guard Sabrina Ionescu cut the home team’s lead to nine as part of a 9-0 run by the Liberty. Eventually, the Aces would be held scoreless for four-plus minutes while their opponent went on a 12-0 run to carve into the lead.
“When we’re great defensively, we’re great offensively,” Hammon said. “In that second quarter when they punched us in the nose a little bit, I thought we stopped doing the little things defensively.”
Ultimately, too much firepower ended up being the storyline in this one as Las Vegas was aided to victory by three 20-point scorers for the second straight game.
Wilson led all scorers with 26 points highlighted by 12 in the first quarter on 10-of-16 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds.
“This lady has been ridiculous,” Hammon said. “And she’s heard it all. Third in MVP voting? Okay, rest on that. It’s a joke [...] If I would’ve played her as many minutes, she would’ve averaged 28 and 13 and that’s all anybody in here would’ve been talking about. But she got screwed because her coach didn’t play her in fourth quarters.”
Guard Jackie Young added 24 points of her own with three made three-pointers along with eight rebounds and four assists. She has now scored 50 points through the first two games of this year’s WNBA Finals.
During that game-changing third quarter, Young converted on three separate and-ones on her way to 11 points in the 10-minute session.
“She’s been shooting it great all year,” Hammon said. “I know I’ve been gassing her basically since May for these moments. Not because I’m gassing her but I believe it’s in her. Your job as a teammate and your job as a coach is to draw that greatness out of people.”
Fellow guard Kelsey Plum chipped in with 23 points on 50% from the field and eight assists for her two 20-point game with at least eight assists.
The guard tandem of Young and Plum’s output of 47 points outscored the 31 points put forth by the New York guard trio of Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot and Betnijah Laney.
Guard Chelsea Gray recorded a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 assists coupled with six rebounds. Her effort helped Las Vegas win the assists battle, 31-19. Those 31 assists for the Aces came on 37 made field goals.
“I wear my passing ability on my sleeve,” Gray said. “That’s what I worked so hard to continue to develop my whole career.”