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Overtime needed as Aces take 2-1 series lead over Storm

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson pushes past Seattle center Tina Charles during Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals from Climate Pledge Arena. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Another wild game went down-to-the-wire as the Las Vegas Aces took control of their best-of-five series with the Seattle Storm.

Las Vegas beat Seattle, 110-98, Sunday, Sept. 4 from the Climate Pledge Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the series. The game also marked the first time either team cracked the 80-point threshold.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something like that,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “The back-and-forth and the battle [...] Just big shot after big shot from both sides really.”

It was the first road game of this year’s playoff run for the No. 1 seeded Aces. This season, the team has a 2-1 record in Seattle.

Prior to this loss, the Storm had won 11 of its last 12 home playoff games.

“We have to stay locked in,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We’re playing in a hard place to play but that’s how champions are born. That’s how things go on, you win on the road. They were hyped when they won Game 1 because you need these games on the road.”

With a chance to close out the series, Las Vegas and Seattle will meet for Game 4 Tuesday, Sept. 6. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

“It’s just not over until the buzzer goes off,” Hammon said. “I talk about fighting for 40 minutes, tonight it took 45 minutes.”

The average margin of victory in this series has been a little over 6.6 points per game which is about three points tighter than the regular season margin of victory in meetings between these two.

It was an 18-6 overtime push that gave the Aces the final edge at the final buzzer, largely on the part of several players playing big in key situations.

“There’s going to be a breaking point where you only have two choices,” Hammon said. “You’re either going to fall apart or come together.”

An 8-0 run about midway through the overtime period gave Las Vegas an eight-point cushion with guard Chelsea Gray scoring five straight points of her own.

Aces guard Chelsea Gray finishes a tough layup while guarded by Storm center Tina Charles. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Gray poured in a playoff-career high, 29 points, with five made three-pointers, a game-high 12 assists and five rebounds. “Chelsea’s special in certain situations,” Hammon said. “I mean, what a luxury it is, you can just give her the ball and she’s going to make something happen. With her passing – 12 assists, one turnover to go along with 29 points is just an incredible performance.”

Las Vegas assisted on 26 of its 44 made field goals, prompting Hammon to admit that number made her “most happy.”

Guard Jackie Young scored at the fourth buzzer to force overtime after what appeared to be a dagger corner three from Seattle’s Sue Bird.

“I really don’t have an idea [as to] what I said to my teammates,” Wilson said. “But the biggest thing was, we live for these moments. We work hard for these bright light games.”

Young also hit a three with 22.4 left in the third quarter to give Las Vegas the four-point advantage.

Guard Riquna Williams knocked down all four of her three-pointers in the second half, draining two in each quarter, on her way to 14 points off-the-bench.

Las Vegas guard Riquna Williams launches a three in front of the Seattle bench during the Aces' Game 3 win. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“My teammates kept telling me to shoot the ball,” she said. “They asked if I was doing push ups before the game or something because everything was so strong and long.”

Her two fourth quarter threes played huge as the first one tied the game at 2:22 and another with 10.2 seconds to go cut the deficit back to one.

The Aces shot 12-of-28 from three while holding the Storm to 10-of-27 from deep.

Wilson led all scorers with 34 points on 14-of-20 shooting while hauling in 11 rebounds. She muscled her way to 20 first half points including 11 in the first quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, Wilson got a layup to go with 2.7 left to put Las Vegas up a point prior to the Bird three.

“Bay hit a big one then A’ja hit a big one then Jackie hit a big one,” Hammon said. “Chelsea hit – I mean, it was just – and that’s what makes this group special. What’s the [movie?] Any Given Sunday. On any given Sunday, it can be somebody else.”

Storm forward Breanna Stewart was smothered in the first quarter to the tune of four points on 1-for-6 from the field.

She finished with a team-high 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting but missed two crucial free throws in overtime. The first miss could’ve put Seattle up a point, 16 seconds into overtime. The second would’ve tied the game with under three minutes to go.

Teammate Tina Charles also missed two free throws with a chance to put the Storm up three with 5.5 left in the fourth quarter.

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