WNBA playoffs 2022: A'ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray power Aces to even semifinals series vs. Storm

·3-min read

Wednesday night was all about powerful women. The WNBA’s two leading MVP candidates — Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart — put on a show in the nightcap as the No. 1-seeded Aces beat the No. 4 Storm 78-73 on Wednesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.

The semifinals series is tied at 1-1. Game 3 is in Seattle at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.

The MVP battle capped off a semifinals doubleheader with the defending champion Chicago Sky evening their series against the Connecticut Sun behind Candace Parker’s big night and Serena Williams extending her final tennis tournament by knocking off the No. 2 seed at the US Open.

The Aces celebrated a trio of awards before Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals, and Wilson made sure her spot in the MVP race was cemented with a 33-point, 13-rebound performance in Game 2. She also had three blocks and was 12 of 18 from the field. It was only the fifth time in WNBA postseason history that a player had at least 30 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, according to Across The Timeline.

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Las Vegas pulled away with a 12-2 run to end the third quarter with a 1-2 punch from Wilson and Kelsey Plum. Wilson knocked down a 3-pointer then Plum got the steal and layup in the waning seconds.

How the Aces won Game 2

Chelsea Gray’s intensity and toughness cannot be overstated. She epitomizes what this Aces team wants to be under first-year head coach Becky Hammon.

Gray’s court vision kept the Aces focused in a game with eight lead changes. She finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

The point "gawd" opens up the floor with her pinpoint passes, and extends the Aces' game past the arc. She's 13 of 20 from 3-point land in the postseason after shooting 34% in the regular season.

Her efficiency and confidence were key for the Aces to even the series before it shifts to Seattle for Games 3 and 4.

How the Storm can bounce back in Game 3

Stewart needs help offensively. It’s really as simple as that.

Stewart scored 32 of the Storm's 73 points. Tina Charles, who joined the team midseason, was the only other Seattle player in double figures with 17.

The back-and-forth of Stewart and Wilson trading buckets is entertaining to watch, but puts too much pressure on Stewart. If she has an off night, where will the offense come from? Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird are easy targets.

Bird’s assists have been key in this postseason. Passing and selfless ball are core to the Storm’s game plan, but in a series with seven No. 1 overall draft picks, someone needs to get buckets.

Loyd went 2 for 10 from the field and 0 for 3 from distance (she finished with eight points), while Bird only had five shots and six points. That cannot happen when the Storm are home for the next two games.

WNBA semifinals schedule

Game 1: Seattle 76, Las Vegas 73

Game 2: Las Vegas 78, Seattle 73 (Series tied, 1-1)

Game 3, Sunday: Las Vegas at Seattle, 3 p.m. ET on ABC

Game 4, Tuesday, Sept. 6: Las Vegas at Seattle, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Game 5, Thursday, Sept. 8: Seattle at Las Vegas, TBD on ESPN2*

*—if necessary

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (22) shoots over Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) during the first half in Game 2 of a WNBA basketball semifinal playoff series Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (22) shoots over Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) during the first half in Game 2 of a WNBA basketball semifinal playoff series Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)