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3 takeaways: Highlight-reel Plum leads Aces to blowout win — PHOTOS

Updated July 4, 2024 - 11:46 pm

Kelsey Plum took advantage of a moment in transition to send A’ja Wilson a wild running pass for a layup. It was a wonder Wilson could catch the overhanded dart, much less connect for the basket.

While the crowd exploded at the highlight play midway through the third quarter, the Aces on the court just laughed and high-fived Plum while they looked at her with various puzzled reactions.

Explosive moments kept unfolding as the Aces beat the Washington Mystics 98-77 on Thursday night at Michelob Ultra Arena. The Aces were playing in the spirit of Fourth of July weekend: free and bold.

Plum led the Aces (12-6) to their sixth straight victory with a game-high 28 points, which included 6-for-9 shooting from the 3-point line. Jackie Young added 20 points and 10 assists, while Wilson had 18 points and nine rebounds.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 19 points for the Mystics (5-16), who were down four starters. Ariel Atkins had 18.

The Aces rolled to the blowout win in front of an announced crowd 10,376, their 11th straight home sellout.

Plum joked about her wild assist after the game.

“Shoutout to A’ja, guys. A’ja has the best hands in the world,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. I threw that thing so hard.”

The Aces travel for the second half of a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Sparks (4-15) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Plum on fire

Outside of the highlight play, Plum’s performance marked her highest two-game scoring stretch since she was drafted in 2017.

She maintained the momentum from her season-high night in the Aces’ last game, Tuesday against the Indiana Fever, in which she scored 34 points with 6-for-11 shooting on 3s. On Thursday, she became just the fifth player to score at least 25 points with at least six 3-pointers in consecutive games.

After the win, coach Becky Hammon said that even though Plum wasn’t shooting well to start the season, there was never any doubt in the work she was putting in.

“There’s just a lot going on personally, professionally,” Plum said. “You know, life is life, and so I’m just giving myself some grace, trying to figure it out. And I know me, I just need time. I just need time to get into a rhythm.”

2. Having fun

Hammon has long emphasized how much room for improvement the Aces have had in third quarters.

Young, Plum, and Wilson combined to shoot 13-for-15 in the third Thursday, and they were responsible for 32 of the Aces’ points as they outscored the Mystics 35-20 in the period.

It was proof that the team’s usual struggles wouldn’t be an issue during the holiday game. They shot a season-best 59 percent from the field as a team, and the 21-point victory is their largest margin this year. But Hammon said her favorite stat was the team’s 31 assists.

Plum, Young and Hammon all said the Aces are having more fun during the winning streak, something they hope to emphasize no matter the box score.

“Tonight was infectious. You can see it with everyone throughout the entire game,” Plum said. “That’s always been the identity and spirit of this team. It’s just joyful, very selfless, very loving, so I think that’s something that’s going to continue throughout the year.”

The upbeat nature of the game was also evident in another football-esque play midway through the second quarter when Chelsea Gray hit Young for a Hail Mary layup to put the Aces up 35-27.

3. Olympian Hayes

The Aces welcomed back Tiffany Hayes after she missed the last game due to a personal reason. She had six points and three assists.

Before the win, she was announced as a member of the 2024 Azerbaijan Olympic 3x3 team that will compete in Paris, giving the Aces five players who will compete during the Olympic break. Wilson, Gray, Plum and Young are on the U.S. team.

Hayes is able to compete for the nation because she became a naturalized Azerbaijani citizen to play for them in the 2015 European Games. She led Azerbaijan to its Olympic berth by helping it claim gold in the 2024 FIBA 3x3 Universality tournament in April in Hong Kong.

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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