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Wilson misses chance at overtime as Aces lose back-to-back games for second time

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson drives hard through the lane against Dallas center Teaira McGowan. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

A late miss that could’ve forced overtime sent the Las Vegas Aces to its second straight loss for the second time this season and the first time in close to a month.

Las Vegas was beaten by the Dallas Wings, 82-80, Thursday, Aug. 4 from the College Park Center in Dallas.

“It happens,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “People miss layups – I mean, it’s going to hurt. It sucks right? To be in that position but we should’ve never been in that position to begin with.”

Wilson’s miss capped her night with 12 points and nine rebounds to go along with four blocks and three steals.

It’s the first win over the Aces in three tries this season for the Wings, who had lost the last 10 meetings against the franchise. Las Vegas hadn’t lost to Dallas since August of 2018.

“We can’t tip-toe into a bar fight,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “That’s a team that’s playing for its playoff life [...] We definitely have to figure some things out on how to start better.”

This meeting featured Wings center Teaira McGowan, who missed the first two contests between these two teams.

McGowan was also responsible for scoring the go-ahead basket for Dallas and was the nearest defender to Wilson before her game-deciding layup attempt.

“It was a physical game,” Hammon said. “The fact that we shoot eight free throws for the game…it is what it is. But I thought we got good looks, we missed them tonight.”

McGowan helped the Wings win the rebounding battle, 37-32.

The Aces are 22-10 on the year and are now tied with the Connecticut Sun for second place in the WNBA. Las Vegas owns the tiebreaker after taking two of the three regular season meetings.

Both teams are a game and a half back of the league-leading Chicago Sky.

Las Vegas will conclude a five-game road trip Sunday, Aug. 7 as it will take on the Seattle Storm for the third time this season and the first since late June.

“We’re focused on the next game,” Gray said. “We’ll learn from this and those moments like any other game. We’ll watch film, get better and try to implement some of those things in Seattle.”

The Aces are now 12-5 on the road with one more road game on their regular season schedule.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray lines up a three-pointer on a night where she drained a season-high five treys. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Gray, as well as Hammon, agreed that despite the late miss that would’ve tied the game at 82 apiece with less than two seconds left in regulation, the game was lost much earlier.

“I thought we were basically just digging out of a hole most of the game,” Hammon said. “Obviously we were right there at the end but really, to me, the first quarter – not being locked in defensively against a team that’s very hungry. They’re fighting for their lives and we didn’t match that intensity or that focus.”

Las Vegas led for 2:09 in the first quarter and never led by more than three points.

Dallas built a lead as large as nine in the first 10 minutes before running the first half lead to 14 points.

The trend of several Aces runs to get back into the game, gained the team some traction but never enough to regain the lead.

Las Vegas ended the first half on a 7-2 run to go into halftime down seven. The team followed it up with a 8-1 run in the third quarter that served as a response to an 8-2 start to the half by Dallas. The lead got up to as big as 15 points during that run by the home team.

With another burst of energy heading into the final quarter, the Aces mounted another run to get the lead down to six points behind an 8-0 run.

“We put ourselves in a chance to send it to overtime,” Hammon said. “But we were digging out of a hole the whole time. We had to exert a lot of energy just to get to that point.”

Another 8-0 start for the home team appeared to put Las Vegas away for good, falling behind by 12 points. However, much like it had done all night, the Aces blasted out a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to three.

The team’s efforts helped catapult the team back into a tie with Dallas with just under 30 seconds left in regulation.

That game-tying basket came from Gray, who scored a season-high 28 points (two away from tying her career-high) on 11-of-17 from the field with five made threes. She also dished out five assists.

“That’s Chelsea,” Hammon said. “She comes to play in big games, big moments. For a while there, she was the only thing we had going offensively.”

Gray had it working early, scoring the first six points for Las Vegas on her way to 15 first half points. Through the first two games against Dallas this year, she averaged 17 points in the two LV wins.

Over the last two games, Gray has compiled 48 points on 19-of-30 from the floor.

“They were just showing different coverages,” she said. “Offensively, we were moving the basketball. We just missed a lot of our shots especially in the first quarter but we got good shots.”

Fellow guard Young added 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting which included two deep threes.

Aces guard Kelsey Plum takes a deep breath while at the free throw line at the College Park Center. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“I just try to be aggressive the whole game,” she said. “My teammates were getting me the ball. Missed a late one that we really needed but just trying to be aggressive whether that’s scoring or getting my teammates the ball.”

Third starting guard Kelsey Plum struggled on the night, finishing with 15 points for the second straight game on 4-of-12 from the field. Over the last two games, she has been limited to 30 combined points on 9-of-28 from the floor.

“[Teams] are trapping her,” Young said. “They know she’s playing her best basketball right now so they’re focusing on her. But she’s a scorer, she’s going to make shots. We aren’t really worried about her attempts.”


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