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Gray, Plum guide Aces past Lynx in tight game from Minnesota

The trend of tight games between Las Vegas and Minnesota continued Friday, while the Aces came away with their third win in as many tries.

Las Vegas beat Minnesota, 91-85, from the Target Center in Minnesota Friday, July 1.

“This is a really tough place to play,” Guard Kelsey Plum said. “Credit to Minnesota, they won the last two quarters and I though that we kind of took our foot of the gas.”

With one more game to play against the Lynx this season, the Aces have already claimed the season series, taking the first three games. They have won by margins of six, one and six again.

“I think we needed that win today,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “The job’s not done, they’re going to come out with a lot more fire Sunday and we’ve got to do the same. […] We’ve got to learn how to close out games.”

This season, Las Vegas is 15-5 and still sit in the first spot of the Western Conference. In addition, it is 9-1 in Commissioner’s Cup games.

Moreover, the Aces are 7-2 on the road this year and are 2-1 through this four-game road trip with one contest remaining.

Minnesota will have one more attempt to right its wrongs against Las Vegas Sunday, July 3.

“We’re still learning our composure,” Plum said. “We’re going to continue to learn to get better but I thought overall tonight, defensive we were good. We had some bad stretches but we’ve got to string together 40 minutes and we’ve yet to do that.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Less than three minutes into this one, a 6-0 Las Vegas lead prompted a Minnesota timeout.

The home team had to wait more than three minutes to score its first points of the game.

Las Vegas’ lead grew to as many as 13 points in the first quarter behind a 15-2 start to the game.

However, the Lynx didn’t go away easily as they used a 15-5 run between the end of the first quarter and start of the second to cut the Aces’ lead down to two.

The guard tandem of Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum kept Las Vegas afloat in the first half, combining for 22 points on 9-of-9 from the field including two made three-pointers with eight assists and four rebounds.

“I just loved her aggressive mentality,” Plum said. “She’s a perennial all-star, she got snubbed this year as well […] When Chelsea is in the zone, everyone in this league knows there’s really nothing you can do.”

Fifteen seconds into the third quarter, Gray missed her first shot while Plum missed her first six seconds later.

Despite the early misses, Las Vegas was still able to stretch the lead to 15 points.

Plum scored five straight points late in the quarter including her third made three of the game. She would go on to score eight of her 18 points in the third quarter in addition to a game-high 10 assists.

“She said it in an interview before,” Wilson said. “She doesn’t have to prove shit to anyone. I think that’s the biggest thing and once she got past that, the floodgates opened for her.”

The fourth quarter is where Gray took over. She scored on a mid-range jumper with 6:34 left in regulation to put Las Vegas up three.

While Minnesota was able to snag its first lead of the game less than a minute later, Gray did the same thing at the 4:35 mark to put the Aces back up by three.

Thirty-four seconds later, Gray converted on an and-one for her 20th and 21st points of the game after draining the free throw.

At that point, she had scored five straight points and seven of the last nine for Las Vegas.

“Just being aggressive and getting to my spots,” Gray said. “They’re pick-and-roll coverage, they were changing some things up and we were just engaged at the point of attack offensively.”

Gray scored a season-high 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go along with six rebounds and five assists.

A three-pointer from guard Jackie Young with 1:19 left, put the game on ice with the Aces up eight. She finished with 10 points on 3-of-9 from the floor with four assists and two rebounds.

“She understands her assignment,” Wilson said. “She’s a pro at what she does. Watching that growth has been incredible honestly.”

Remaining starters Wilson and Dearica Hamby also scored in double-figures.

Wilson scored six of her 15 points in the final 10 minutes while also hauling in 12 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the year to go along with two blocks.

Hamby recorded 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting along with six rebounds and three steals in the win.

Earlier this week, she was named as the fourth Las Vegas player to the WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago this year. This will be her second all-star appearance.

In addition, the former two-time Sixth Player of the Year signed an extension to stay in Las Vegas past this season.

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