Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Las Vegas evened up its most recent homestand at one apiece after demolishing Indiana, for the team’s first home win in a month.
The Aces trounced the Fever, 90-77, Thursday, July 21 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
“I told them I really didn’t care about offense,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “I just wanted to see them play defense and they did that.” The win snaps a four-game home losing streak dating back to mid-June.
“I’m still mad,” Hammon said. “But can’t do anything about that, we’ve got another good team coming in here on Saturday. All we can do is take care of the next one.” The Los Angeles Sparks are next for the Aces, scheduled for Saturday, July 23 with tip-off set for 7 p.m.
This season’s Las Vegas team is 3-0 against LA, winning by an average of 17 points per game.
Overall, the Aces are 19-8 this season including a 7-6 mark against Eastern Conference teams. As it stands, Las Vegas is now a game and a half ahead of the Seattle Storm for the top spot in the Western Conference.
In this one, the Aces trailed for the first 2:17 of the game but would trail no more after that.
It was early bully-ball that got Las Vegas out to a fast start, scoring 10 of its first 10 points from inside the paint on the way to a +28 finish by the final buzzer.
“You don’t have to be big to get downhill,” Hammon said. “You do have to be assertive though and have an attacking mentality. We have enough shooters around to provide that space, that’s what this offense is designed for.”
Two nights after having 19 of its first 31 shot attempts come from beyond the arc, the Aces did not attempt a three-point shot until the 3:48-mark of the first quarter.
“Going back to the last game, I just thought we settled,” Hammon said. “We didn’t want to work for anything hard. As much as I love threes, you guys know how much I love threes, I love the rim too.”
Las Vegas tallied seven assists on 10 made field goals in the first quarter.
Guard Chelsea Gray had three of those seven assists on the way to setting a new season-high and flirting with tying a career-high.
In her first 11 minutes on the floor, she recorded six points, four assists and three rebounds on her way to a 14-point, seven-assist first half.
“We were able to play out of our defense,” she said. “When we’re able to do that and play out in transition and play in that secondary offense, that’s when we’re flowing and you can see almost everything.”
Gray made many highlight reel plays, multiple coming in the second quarter.
She dished a behind-the-back pass to forward A’ja Wilson for an and-one basket about midway through the frame for her fifth assist on the night.
Just before halftime, after a Las Vegas turnover, Gray secured her second steal of the game and found Wilson under the basket for an easy two points. The entire play occurred in a seven-second span.
In the fourth quarter, with the game already in hand, Gray found fellow guard Kelsey Plum running down the middle of the floor for a full-court assist.
“She was just out-running them,” Gray said. “I was able to get it up to her and she was able to lay it in. She’s quick so she was out ahead of the pack so I gave her the ball.”
Gray finished with 14 points and a season-high 12 assists, just two shy from tying her career-high of 14 helpers.
Over the last five games, she has averaged 14.8 points per game as well as 7.2 assists per game.
“That’s who she is,” Wilson said. “That’s Chelsea Gray, through and through. She’s the head of our snake. Wherever she flows, however she goes, [it has] an impact on us.”
As a team, the Aces compiled 23 assists on 37 made field goals.
Wilson posted 23 points on 10-of-19 from the field including a perfect 2-of-2 mark from downtown to go along with eight rebounds.
It marks the fifth straight 20-point contest for the former league MVP and her 14th of the season as a whole.
Las Vegas led by as many as 31 points in a game where everybody in uniform saw playing time.
Defense told the story early for the Aces as the 19 first quarter points it held the Fever to was a far-cry from the 35 it allowed in the previous outing against the Atlanta Dream.
“We were actually talking,” Wilson said. “Against Atlanta, I don’t think we talked much at all. I think we assumed a lot of things.”
Las Vegas was locked in on the defensive end, holding its opponent to just one made three in the first half on the way to a 35% mark from three for the game as well as a 42% field goal shooting percentage for the game.