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3 takeaways from Aces’ win: Weathering Storm, containing All-Star

The Seattle Storm had clawed their way back into the game. With 6:36 remaining Thursday, the Aces had seen their lead shrink from 24 points to seven.

The Aces hadn’t scored in the fourth quarter when All-Star Kelsey Plum collected the ball near the right elbow. She drove to the rim, taking contact from Storm defender Sami Whitcomb, before dropping in a short floater.

Plum let out a yell as she turned down the court, trying to reinvigorate her team.

“I didn’t shoot any free throws tonight,” she said. “You’ve seen me play. I live in the paint. It’s really hard. So I think if anything, I was just yelling obscenities. But I was just frustrated, that’s all.”

Plum’s yelling worked. Her basket halted a 19-2 run and launched the Aces’ response on their way to a 79-63 victory against the Storm at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson had a game-best 23 points to go with 15 rebounds, three blocks and three steals for the Aces (20-2) in their first game after the All-Star break.

All-Star guard Jackie Young added 22 points and went 3-for-4 on 3-pointers. Plum finished with 20 points and six assists.

It was just the third time the Aces have been held below 80 points this season, but the first time coach Becky Hammon’s team has won in that situation.

“It was a little bit of a rusty game for us shootingwise,” Hammon said. “But I thought down the stretch, especially late in that fourth quarter considering we didn’t score for like four minutes, they buckled down.”

All-Stars Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor led the Storm (4-17) with 12 points each.

The Aces continue their road trip at noon Saturday against the Minnesota Lynx in Minneapolis.

Here are three takeaways from the Aces’ win:

1. All-Star trio shines

The Aces built their early lead through their All-Star trio of Plum, Young and Wilson. An off shooting night for fellow All-Star Chelsea Gray meant the trio shouldered the scoring load.

Wilson, Young and Plum combined for 65 points, or 82 percent of the team’s total scoring. Wilson and Plum were a game-best plus-20, and Young was plus-18.

2. Containing Loyd

Despite Seattle’s struggles, Loyd has enjoyed a strong 2023 season. She entered Thursday as the league’s leading score at 25.7 points per game, and she scored an All-Star Game record 31 points to win the event’s MVP award Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Aces kept Loyd in check Thursday by sending aggressive double teams and forcing the ball out of her hands. She scored 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting and went just 1-for-6 on 3-pointers. Hammon said the Aces tried to show Loyd as many defensive looks as possible, and the team’s defense won the game.

“I don’t care if it’s a pickup game, an All-Star game — to hold her to 12 points is a really good job,” Hammon said. “We have a lot of respect for her. It’s a full team effort.”

3. Parker update

Ahead of Thursday’s game, Hammon gave an update on two-time MVP Candace Parker.

“She’s out for a while,” Hammon told reporters.

The veteran center hasn’t played since July 7 because of an ankle injury. Hammon previously said Parker was going to be re-evaluated during the All-Star break.

An Aces spokesperson said Parker and guard Riquna Williams (lower back) are not with the team, resulting in the Aces’ emergency hardship signing of rookie guard Ashley Joens on Wednesday.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com.

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