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Three-point win earns Aces first-ever Finals victory

Las Vegas forward Dearica Hamby pushes the break during the Aces' Game 1 win over the Connecticut Sun. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Halftime adjustments led the Las Vegas Aces to their first-ever WNBA Finals win in the form of a three-point win over the Connecticut Sun.

“Oh, I was lit,” head coach Becky Hammon said about her halftime speech. “I was lit because everything we had talked about, we didn’t do any of it. And true to form, they just step up and do it then. Like I said, I don’t even yell in my real life.” The Aces beat the Sun in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, 67-64, Sunday, Sept. 11 from the Michelob Ultra Arena in front of a sold out crowd. Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner missed a three-pointer with less than three seconds left that would’ve tied the game.

“It was a game we needed,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “Not necessarily because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s our first win,’ but it was because it was something that was huge for us. These are statement games in a way.”

These two teams hadn’t seen each other since June as Las Vegas claimed two of the three games against Connecticut. The Sun were coming off a grueling come-from-behind victory in Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals against the Chicago Sky.

Game two is set for Tuesday, Sept. 13 from the Michelob Ultra Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“This is a tough team,” Hammon said. “This is where they like the score to be. We’ll go back, look at the film and make some adjustments. I’m happy that we won. It’s better than losing but there’s a lot of things we can do better.”

That halftime speech from Hammon sparked a defensive effort from the Aces that held the Sun to 26 second half points.

“We can not [talk about it],” guard Chelsea Gray said of the halftime speech. “It is unedited. We got children watching.”

That defensive effort made up for Las Vegas going scoreless for the final 1:39 of regulation. Both teams went scoreless for nearly three minutes late in the second quarter during this defensive struggle.

“It comes from them,” Hammon said. “I can try to push and pair all the right ways but at the end of the day, they have to decide they want to go out there and do it, and they did.

Aces forward A'ja Wilson spins around Sun center Jonquel Jones on her way to a two-point finish in the paint. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“What did they have, 26 in the second half? In the WNBA? That’s hard work and they just dug in. We ramped up our physicality. It felt like we had to get punched in the face before we reacted.”

Early in the game, Las Vegas was able to build a 12-point lead in the first quarter. Battling back, Connecticut took its first lead on a 13-4 run to start the second quarter.

“In the first half, we talked about a lot of stuff and did little of it,” Hammon said. “And then in the third and fourth [quarters] they did it. And they did it very well.”

Wilson posted a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds including a 12-point burst in the 10 minutes of the game. She added four blocks and two steals on the defensive side as well.

“She’s got that It-factor,” Hammon said. “She gets it, she understands leadership. I didn’t really know her as a person, I was watching from afar like everybody else. She’s got these beast skills but she’s also a beast human. I’ll go to battle with her any day.”

While fighting her way through the paint, Wilson muscled her way to the free throw line 14 times, converting on 12 of those attempts. Prior to the start of the game, Wilson was presented with her second career MVP trophy.

Two-time MVP award winner A'ja Wilson accepts the trophy in front of the sold out Michelob Ultra Arena with her parents and league commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“I am who I am,” Wilson said. “I’m just going to be there for my teammates and I feel like I’ve developed relationships and bonds with each one of them to where I know exactly how to talk to them and get the best out of them.”

As she has all season long, Gray played the role of closer for the Aces.

“The biggest play of the game that Chelsea made was the charge,” Hammon said. “A defensive play. Because that was a guaranteed two [points] coming. I believe they had [Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas] coming down the lane with green pastures and that charge changed the whole game.” On offense, Gray single handedly went on a 5-0 run late in the fourth quarter to put Las Vegas up six. She’d finish with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Aces guard Chelsea Gray spins in the paint for two points, shaking Connecticut defenders in the process. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

She did tally three of the team’s eight total assists on the night, a season-low for the Aces.

“They want to muck it up,” Gray said. “That’s their defensive scheme [but] we did miss some outside shots and we’re going to take the same ones.” Those eight assists came on 28 made field goals while the Sun racked up 18 assists on 28 makes on the other end.

As a team, Las Vegas shot just under 40% from the field including a 5-for-24-mark from three.

“Obviously, we had a rough night offensively,” Hammon said. “Give credit to [the Sun’s] defense and give credit to us missing. I think it was a little bit of both.”


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