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Guard play propels Aces to fifth straight home win to open year

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum warms up inside the Michelob Ultra Arena on Sunday, June 18. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

It was never a matter of if Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum would have a breakout game but a matter of when.

Plum shined bright in the Aces, 93-62, win over the Minnesota Lynx Sunday, June 18 from the Michelob Ultra Arena to conclude a perfect three-game homestand. Las Vegas has scored 90 or more points in nine of the team’s 11 games to start this season, highlighted by the team’s 10-1 overall record.

“I thought it was a good effort,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “We made some adjustments at halftime – they had 22 points in the first quarter but they had 21 [total] in the second half so defensively we were engaged and on-point.”

In two games played this season, the Aces have beaten the Lynx by an average of 26 points per game.

Las Vegas will head to Phoenix for a date with the Mercury before returning home for five more consecutive home games to end June and start July.

The matchup with Phoenix is slated for Wednesday, June 21 with tip-off slated for 12:30 p.m.

“Seeing the growth over these years is just tremendous,” Plum said. “I just remember when we first got here, it was just crickets when we ran out and now just the love that is shown from the city, around the city and there’s a pride and it’s really cool to be a part of it [...] It’s a privilege to play for the Aces.”

Plum scored 13 of her 21 points in the first half, ending the night with an 8-for-11 shooting mark from the field. That stat line included going 4-for-7 from three-point range. Prior to this, she hadn’t made at least four threes in a game in 18 straight contests.

“I thought I’ve actually played really well,” she said. “I may not have shot the ball well from three but I think that statistically, when you read the paper you think, ‘This is who played well, this is who didn’t.’ The numbers might not express that at times but I don’t think this was a “better” game.”

Aces guard Kelsey Plum attempts to push past Lynx guard Tiffany Mitchell in the team's 30-point win. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

Plum cashed in on a three to cap a 14-4 Aces run in the third quarter that pushed the team’s lead to 23 points. Las Vegas eventually won the third quarter, 20-7 before ultimately building a lead as large as 37 points in the final frame.

Overall, the home team won the second half by 18 points. By the final buzzer, Las Vegas had held Minnesota to 33% from the field while shooting 47% on the other end.

“It’s really about building habits for us,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “A lot of the times, I’m always going to coach us to our identity, who we are, ‘Are the Aces being the Aces?’ Obviously, like tonight, when we play out of our defense it’s a huge separation factor.”

Fellow guard Jackie Young led all scorers with 24 points on 7-of-12 from the floor to go along with two steals and a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the free throw line.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray celebrates on the floor of the Michelob Ultra Arena after hitting a buzzer-beater just as halftime approached. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

Gray added 17 points of her own to go along with a shared team-high of five assists along with teammate Candace Parker. She scored 14 of her 17 points in the first half including a buzzer-beating jumper just before halftime.

The guard trio of Plum, Young and Gray combined to score 62 total points on 22-of-34 from the field in the win.

“The ball is in our hands a lot,” Gray said. “We initiate different actions on any given night. I think that’s what makes us so dangerous, scouting us is probably a headache of who’s going to bring the ball up and who’s going to be where.”

Moreover, the trio helped lead the Aces to just six turnovers in the game whilst forcing their opponent into 12 on the other end.

Parker was the final player in double-figures with 11 points in just under 24 minutes of action.

Forward A’ja Wilson was held to single-digit scoring for the first time in the regular season in over a year. She finished with eight points, a game-high 14 rebounds, and a game-high four blocks.

“We’ve got a lot of really good players,” Hammon said. “All the way through, even the ones that you don’t see as much. They come in everyday and I get the same professionals everyday. That’s [guard Sydney Colson], [forward Cayla George and guard Kierstan Bell] – whether they zero minutes or they play 20 minutes, they are the exact same and I don’t think people realize what a luxury that is as a coach to have that kind of professionalism on your bench.”

Every Las Vegas starter ended the night with at least a +25 plus/minus led by a +35 mark by Gray.

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