They passed, fending off a second-half push from the Wings for a 91-84 win to take a 2-0 lead in the WNBA semifinals. They now stand a win away from a trip to the WNBA Finals in their quest to secure a second straight championship.
The Aces got off to another strong start Tuesday while taking a 26-18 first-quarter lead. They entered halftime up 44-37 behind 30 combined first-half points from A'ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray. Wilson brought the Las Vegas home crowd to its collective feet with a coast-to-coast and-1 effort before the break.
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The Wings battled back early in the third quarter and rallied to tie the game at 49-49. The Aces responded with a 21-8 stretch to enter the fourth with a 70-57 lead. But the game wasn't over.
The Wings fired back with a 9-0 run in the fourth capped by an Arike Ogunbowale 3-pointer to claw back within 73-68. They took advantage of multiple quick Aces possessions to again cut their deficit to 85-81 with 1:36 remaining. But Wilson iced the game with a pair of free throws with 39.6 seconds remaining that secured an 89-81 lead and her third straight 30-plus-point performance.
A'ja Wilson makes history
In doing so, she made history as the first WNBA player with three straight 30-plus-point playoff games. Her 102-point tally since a Game 2 clincher over the Chicago Sky is the highest three-game tally in playoff history. She finished Tuesday with 30 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. She hit all 10 of her free throws and finished 10 of 18 from the field.
"Playoff basketball," Wilson told ESPN of her torrid stretch. "This is what I get paid to do. I get paid to play basketball and have fun with my teammates. ... This is kind of what I'm made for, and I try to make sure that my team's doing the same."
Wilson's effort arrived hours after she'd finished third in an air-tight three-way MVP race that crowned New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart. Wilson earned 17 of 60 first-place votes.
"It is what it is," Wilson said of the vote. "I can't control that. I gave myself a couple of hours, but at the end of the day, we've got something bigger that we want to go after."
That "something bigger," obviously, is another WNBA championship.
Wilson wasn't alone in her big effort Tuesday. Gray posted 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds while shooting 10 of 17 from the floor and 3 of 4 from 3-point distance. Kelsey Plum bounced back from a one-point first half to tally 18 points while shooting 4 of 7 from long distance, helping to keep the Wings at bay during their second-half rally.
Ogunbowale countered with 24 points for the Wings, while Natasha Howard posted 20 points and 10 rebounds. The series shifts to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday, when the Aces will look to close the Wings out on their home floor.