Already undefeated at home, the Las Vegas Aces returned to the desert for another win that pushes the team’s current streak to five straight games.
Las Vegas beat Indiana, 101-88, Saturday, June 24 from the Michelob Ultra Arena to improve to 6-0 from The House this season.
“Vegas has been super supportive,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “Since midway through last season, it’s a tough ticket to get in here. People are coming to show that support and that energy. Then you have [guard] Chelsea Gray going out there and throwing passes out of her ears.”
The Aces are now 12-1 on the year with four more games to go on this season-long five-game homestand. Moreover, this year’s team is winning games by an average of 18.7 points per game.
“We know what to expect,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “We’re not going to get anything handed to us. We’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt because of who we are in this league and we know that.”
The Aces' homestand continues Monday, June 26 from the Michelob Ultra Arena in the third and final meeting of the year with the Fever as part of this back-to-back. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.
“It’s always tough to beat a team twice in a row,” Hammon said. “We’re going to have a lot of lock-in factor this next game. [It’s] a talented team over there – a hungry team.”
Now with two wins through the first two games of the year against Indy, Las Vegas matched up with this year’s No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston.
Right out the gates, Boston came out and posted up Aces forward Candace Parker for two points on the game’s first play. Later in the quarter, she’d take a dribble drive from the elbow before spinning off two-time MVP A'ja Wilson for another made basket.
Boston would go on to make her first eight field goal attempts of the night.
“I don’t really look at it as a [1-on-1] matchup,” Wilson said. “I think it’s something that we just do. We got the ball and were rocking and rolling, we played out of our defense in the beginning of the game.”
In fact, Boston didn’t miss her first field goal until more than halfway through the fourth quarter when Wilson recorded one of her two blocks in the game. Boston finished with 18 on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.
Wilson countered Boston’s outing with 28 points of her own, 18 of which came in the first half, while hauling in 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season before dealing with foul trouble in the second half.
Eleven of Wilson’s 28 points came at the free throw line on 16 tries. As a whole, Indiana was whistled for 22 total team fouls, eight more than Las Vegas.
“Between her and [guard] Jackie Young, I feel they could shoot 30 free throws a game,” Hammon said. “They’re just so physically dominant and demonstrative, I think a lot of times they’re so big and strong it’s kind of like [LA Lakers forward LeBron James where] he’s so big, he kind of absorbs it and I look at those two players very similarly.
“You could call a foul on every possession.”
Boston and Wilson were aided by big nights from fellow frontcourt mates NaLyssa Smith and Candace Parker. The former tallied 26 points and 11 rebounds while the latter turned in 15 points and five rebounds for the Aces.
Both Smith and Parker combined to shoot 17-of-26 from the field.
“She just never gets out of her box,” Hammon said of Indiana’s Smith. “She’s just very smooth in what she does, she makes it look easy out there. She just knows how to play – if I was going to play a pickup game, I’d want her on my team.”
Plum erupted to score 12 of her 26 points in the third quarter, helping Las Vegas build a lead as large as 20 points in the frame. At the time, the scoring punch was necessary as Wilson had picked up her fourth foul of the game.
“That’s just kind of who we are,” Plum said. “Somebody is in foul trouble, somebody is being trapped, somebody maybe doesn’t have it that night from the outside but people on this team have been doing that all year [...] That’s what makes a good team, it’s not just one player, it’s anyone any given night in any quarter.”
Plum accounted for three of the 11 made threes for the Aces who closed the night with a 48%-clip.
Gray posted a season-high 12 assists while collecting her second double-double of the season to go along with 13 points. Her night was highlighted by several flashy passes including a moving behind-the-back pass to a diving Wilson for two paint points.
“Everyone is talking about that pass, whatever,” Wilson said with a smile. “I don’t know where Chelsea and I created this connection because it’s not like we’ve been playing forever together. But I just know to always be ready, always be alert. I know it’s going to come, I [just] don’t know when.”
Young crossed over into double-digit scoring, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting to avoid being held to single-digit points for the first time this season. The last time she was held to single-digit scoring in the regular season was in last year’s finale.