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Slow shooting night not enough as Aces survive Storm

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson goes up for a layup at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

For the first time this season, the Las Vegas Aces scored less than 80 points in a winning effort despite a frigid shooting night. At least, frigid by their standards.

Las Vegas dumped Seattle, 79-63, Thursday, July 20 from the Climate Pledge Arena in both team’s first outing since returning from the all-star break. Prior to this outing, the Aces had lost both games that the team was held to under 80 points. Moreover, in two previous meetings, Las Vegas had averaged more than 100 points a game versus Seattle this season.

“Our defense was really active,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Our defense won us the game tonight, clearly, not our offense.”

The win improves the Aces to 20-2 on the year amidst this four-game road trip which began prior to the all-star break. Earlier this week, this year’s Commissioner’s Cup championship game was set for Tuesday, Aug. 15 from the Michelob Ultra Arena and will feature Las Vegas and New York, the league’s two best teams.

For now, the team will turn its attention to the Minnesota Lynx for a Saturday, July 22 matchup which is set to begin at 12 p.m.

“Man, I love my teammates,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “I love them through and through, those are my sisters – I wouldn’t want to go to war with anyone else. The record is a reflection of who we are and what we stand for and we just like to have fun while doing it.”

Aces guard Chelsea Gray works around a screen set by teammate A'ja Wilson. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Having already built a lead as large as 24 points in the second half, the Aces were able to withstand a cold stretch late in the third quarter and early in the fourth that saw the team go scoreless for more than five minutes.

The Storm closed the third quarter on a 10-2 run that eventually would be pushed to 16-2 in the early going of the final frame. During that time, Seattle was able to close the gap to 10 points but it would not get any closer than that.

Wilson scored five straight points late in regulation, helping Las Vegas push the lead back to 15 points as part of a 12-4 run by the defending champions. She finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-15 from the field along with a game-high 15 rebounds.

In 22 games played this season, Wilson has tallied 14 double-doubles.

On defense, Wilson also added three blocks including two in the first quarter. In that opening frame, she recorded the 300th block of her six-year career.

“I think we did a pretty good job of communicating and being aware of where everyone was going,” she said. “Once we play out of our defense, rusty or not, we’re a pretty decent team.”

All-stars A'ja Wilson (#22) and Jewell Loyd (#24) hug near center court during the Las Vegas-Seattle matchup from Climate Pledge Arena Thursday, July 20. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Wilson’s effort helped anchor an Aces defense that managed to hold league’s leading scorer Jewell Loyd to 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting. In three games played this season against Las Vegas, she is averaging 17 points per contest on 26% shooting from the field.

“I thought our defense was great,” Hammon said. “They scored 63 points, to hold Jewell Loyd to 12 points in a game – any game, pick up game, all-star game, any game. Holding her to 12 points is a really good job, we have a lot of respect for her.”

Guard Jackie Young added 22 points on 6-of-14 from the floor including three made three-pointers. She drilled back-to-back threes early in the third quarter amidst the team’s push to expand the lead to 24 points.

Fellow guard Kelsey Plum added a dagger three late in regulation en route to a 20-point night on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with six assists. As she is oftentimes, she was very emotional throughout the game.

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum drives to the basket during her 16-point outing against Seattle. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“I was just trying to get to the paint throughout the whole game,” she said. “We had a little bit of a run where we weren’t scoring and again, I got the paint [in the third quarter] and I got bumped.

“It’s tough as a player, I’m trying to battle down there with their guards and I’m getting fouls called on me.”

As a team, the Aces recorded 19 total assists on 29 made field goals. Las Vegas was led by eight assists from all-star guard Chelsea Gray.

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