Kelsey Plum responds to A’ja Wilson’s outspoken criticism with a ‘assertion’ efficiency because the Las Vegas Aces win Sport 2 of the WNBA Finals
After Game 1 of Sunday’s WNBA Finals — a narrow three-point win by the Las Vegas Aces over the Connecticut Sun — two-time MVP A’ja Wilson turned to Las Vegas teammate Kelsey Plum and “told her that she has to do it bring her s— together.”
Plum, the team’s top scorer in the regular season (20.2 points per game average), struggled to find her groove in most of the playoffs, hitting just 39% of her shots from the field and 26% of 3 after Game 1 And before that, until she hit a key 3 in the fourth quarter on Sunday, she started 0-on-8 from the field.
Being snubbed by Wilson, which Plum said she welcomed, led to a “statement game,” in Wilson’s words, from the 2017 No. 1 overall pick on Tuesday night, which helped level the Aces to an 85-71 – Drive win that made her one win away from winning her first WNBA title.
“[I made] sure she understood that we needed her to record,” Wilson said, “and I know it sounds harsh, but KP is a pro and she went out there and took care of business.”
While the series is now moving to Uncasville, Connecticut for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary), no team in WNBA playoff history has come back from a 0-2 deficit to have a best-of-five series to win.
Aces coach Becky Hammon said Plum’s ability to come downhill was what made the difference in Game 2. The former University of Washington star made six of her seven shots in the paint to join Wilson and Chelsea Gray as a 20-point scorer while also dishing out seven assists that was a personal high this postseason.
“A lot of times I’m hard on myself and feel like I’ve been a little frustrated with how I’ve been doing throughout the playoffs,” Plum said. “I’m glad they wore it and I decided to join the party.
“I feel like in the past few years I might have dropped my head and gone deeper into a hole. But through a lot of things I’ve been through over the years, it’s just taught me that I’ll always rebound, and I know that about myself and I’ll just keep shooting.”
Wilson and Gray continued their historic postseason tears, the former (26 points, 10 rebounds) by recording their fifth straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, which ranks as the longest such streak in WNBA history, inclusive regular season and playoff games.
“You can tell it’s a run, but she’s been doing that all season,” Plum said of Wilson. “I felt like she was the most consistent player offensively and defensively night after night in this league and that’s why she’s MVP. It is great.”
Gray (21 points, eight assists) compiled her fifth game in the playoffs with at least 20 points and five assists, a just short of the record for most in a single postseason.
“Chelsea Gray makes contested shots. She makes incredibly difficult contested shots,” said Sun coach Curt Miller. “It’s really separating them right now.”
The big three of aces, Plum, Wilson and Gray (67 points), almost alone outperformed Sun (71 points).
Las Vegas used a strong first and third quarters to extend their lead, and although the Sun made it a three-point game early in the third, the Aces used a 31-14 run to close by one midway through the fourth Game high of 20 to improve .
“It starts at the defensive end,” Hammon said. “Our defense sucked. They went out and didn’t save.”
At one point in the game, a miked Hammon was shown saying she was “so lucky” that the aces beat the sun in the suit (24-12). Behind Plum and others, Las Vegas continued to dominate this phase of the game, eventually surpassing the Sun 46-28; With 54% of their points coming from paint, this marked the Aces’ highest paint-scoring rate for a game this postseason.
“They really want to clog lane, so I think we’re going to play higher and wider, put up good screens, have good angles and get good reads,” Gray said. “Often they put two people on the ball and how do we deal with that when we see that and play out of those actions. Once we have a good distance, we can paint a lot of different things in the ball or knock out for shooters.”
Hammon’s former boss during her time as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, NBA legend Gregg Popovich, attended Tuesday’s competition and visited the Aces in the locker room after the win.
“You don’t need me but it’s been great watching you guys play, it’s been great watching you guys on TV,” Popovich said, as captured in a video of the interaction posted to Twitter. “The way you perform, the way you play physically, it’s just beautiful to look at, honestly. They just play great basketball, and it’s about consistency, so you have to keep it going.”
Then he reminded the team which victories are the most beautiful: “the ones on the road”.
The Sun now has 10 finals losses, the most in WNBA history with the Minnesota Lynx, while still seeking their first franchise title. But they try not to fixate on their 2-0 deficit when the series returns home.
“You have to break it down and we’re going to get back to work with our prep for Game 3 and all we’re talking about is Game 3,” Miller said. “Specifically, we’re only going to talk about the first quarter and that’s our approach. I think when you start thinking we’ve got to win three in a row, we’ve got to do things like that, it’s going to be big.”