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Third quarter rally catapults Aces to fourth win in five games

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson celebrates during the Aces' 12-point win over the Phoenix Mercury. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Things didn’t start clicking until the third quarter for the Las Vegas Aces in their most recent win but it was all cylinders firing once they did.

Las Vegas came from behind to beat the Phoenix Mercury, 86-74, Tuesday, May 17 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

“Obviously happy with how we came out in the third quarter,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “I thought we started off very slow, very soft, not locked in – defensively especially.”

The win came in the first of a four-game homestand for a 4-1 Aces team that went 1-1 on their most recent road trip.

Additionally, it’s the second win over Phoenix through the first five games of the season after Las Vegas won by 18 points on opening night.

Both of the Mercury losses this year have come at the hands of the Aces.

The two teams will play again on this homestand, Saturday, May 21 with tip-off scheduled for 12 p.m.

“They respond,” Hammon said. “It’s very simple. Adversity is part of the deal, in fact, you can’t get tough, you can’t build something with each other unless you go through some adversity.

“It’s not easy to be great. And I’m asking them to be great every night on both sides of the floor.”

Next for Las Vegas is a Thursday, May 19 matchup against the Minnesota Lynx from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

Former head coach Bill Laimbeer will be recognized as it will be “$2 Bill LaimBEER Night.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Las Vegas didn’t grab it’s first until the third quarter but once it did, it never relinquished it. A prompt 8-0 run out of the halftime gates was the start of the comeback.

“This is probably the best third quarter we’ve had since I’ve been here,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We’ve always stunk it up in the third. For us to come out and do that, it all started on the defensive end.”

Guard Jackie Young scored 11 of her 19 points in the third quarter after scoring eight in the first half.

“She’s just playing with a lot of confidence from all three levels,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “I think that’s the next step that she has to take is when you have those moments where she’s [getting buckets], don’t just pass the ball up. They had a hard time guarding her downhill.”

Las Vegas guard Jackie Young attempts a free throw. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

On the other end of the floor, Young held future Hall-of-Famer Diana Taurasi to eight points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Taurasi was also held to just nine points on 3-of-11 in the season opening loss.

“We all know she’s a great player,” Young said. “I think we just try and make it tough for her early on and make it difficult for to get the ball. And once she gives it up, make it hard for her to get it back.”

Young signed a two-year extension earlier this week to stay in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas went on to win the third quarter 30-12, building a lead as large as 19 before the end of the contest.

Phoenix would cut the lead down to as little as eight in the fourth quarter.

Wilson recorded another double-double, posting 16 points, 10 rebounds. She also added two blocked shots and went 8-of-11 from the free throw line.

She also was named the league’s Player of the Week Monday, May 16.

Guard Kelsey Plum scored five points during that 8-0 run that changed the complexion of the game.

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum drives to the basket for a layup. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“She was getting to her spots on the floor,” Young said. “She just wasn’t finishing it. We were just telling her to keep attacking them and being aggressive and she did just that.”

After being saddled with two fouls in the first quarter, Plum was held without a point until a minute left in the first half.

She would finish the game as the game’s leading scorer with 20 points on 7-of-13 from the field including going 3-for-5 from deep.

In that first quarter, Phoenix would use a 13-3 run to go up double-digits. Eventually, the Mercury would lead by 12 points in the opening frame.

“I just thought everybody was hanging onto the ball,” Hammon said. “When your teammate’s open, they need the ball right now.”

Gray scored five points in the first quarter on a perfect 2-of-2 from the field before tallying 11 points in the first half.

“I think [our defense] was messing with our offense a little bit,” she said. “We kept taking the ball out of bounds so it was harder to get into a flow. And once we were able to string together some stops, we were able to flow in transition and get easy buckets.”

Gray finished with 14 points on 5-of-12 from the field to go along with nine assists.

All five Aces starters scored in double figures with forward Derica Hamby’s 13 points rounding out the field.

It’s the third time through five games this season that all five starters have scored 10 or more points apiece.

Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon shouts out instructions to Aces players. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“I hit them pretty hard at halftime and they responded,” Hammon said. “I hate getting on them like that but like I said, I call it like I see it.”

Mercury center Tina Charles scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first half after being held to 15 points in the entire first meeting on opening night.

Charles was held to just two points on 1-of-6 from the field in the second half.

“The biggest thing is we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing,” Hammon said. “So I said, ‘It’s hard to make an adjustment because I don’t know if what we were originally trying to do is working or not.’”

Las Vegas did force Phoenix into 18 turnovers while committing 10 on the other end.

“We’ve got a lot of people that can do things with the ball,” Hammon said. “But we still don’t want to play in crowds. So yeah it was a focus coming in tonight. I challenged them and they responded.

“I challenged them to get 10 or less actually and they got 10 on the nose.”


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