All Aces A’ja Wilson had to do was make a layup.
With three seconds remaining, the Aces prepared to inbound the ball while trailing the Dallas Wings by two points. Coach Becky Hammon called a staggered screen play for Kelsey Plum, but used the All-Star guard as a decoy. The 2020 WNBA MVP slipped her defender, cut to the rim and received a perfect pass from guard Chelsea Gray for a wide-open layup.
“A’ja was the first option,” Hammon said.
The Aces lost to the Dallas Wings 82-80 on Thursday at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. Wilson’s touch on the layup was too heavy and the ball bounced off the backboard, hit the front of the rim and was batted away by the Wings defense. As time expired, Wilson slumped forward, hands on her knees in disbelief as the Aces lost their second consecutive game.
“It happens,” Gray said. “People miss layups. It’s going to hurt. It sucks to be in that position.
”But we never should have been in that position to begin with.”
Gray scored a season-high 28 points on 64.7 percent shooting. All-Star wing Jackie Young added 19 points, and Plum added 15 despite struggling for efficiency.
Plum also made her 100th 3-pointer of the season, joining Phoenix Mercury legend Diana Taurasi as the only players to reach the milestone.
Dallas won despite missing All-Star Arike Ogunbowale, out with an ankle injury. Wings center Teaira McCowan stepped up with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
The Aces (22-10) complete their six-game road trip at noon Sunday when they visit the Seattle Storm.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. First quarter defense
Wilson may have missed the final shot, but Hammon said the game was decided long before the All-Star’s layup bounced off the rim.
The Aces defense struggled for the first 10 minutes of the game as the Wings (15-16) took a 24-17 lead. McCowan had seven points and grabbed five rebounds. Dallas shot 47.4 percent from the floor and went 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.
“I thought we were basically just digging out of a hole for most of the game,” Hammon said.
2. Gray vs. the Wings
Gray was at her shot-making best, using an array of moves to find space in the mid-range or work into her turnaround jumper. She also made a season-high five 3-pointers.
She had 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting en route to scoring 20-plus points in consecutive games. Gray was two points off her career-high mark, and she added five assists, a block, a steal and two rebounds.
“For a while there, she was the only thing we had going offensively,” Hammon said.
3. Comeback crushed
The Aces made their push in the fourth quarter. Young began to heat up near the end of the third quarter, converting a four-point play that cut the deficit to single figures, but Dallas opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, make the right reads and get my teammates the ball,” Young said.
Hammon called a timeout, and the Aces outscored the Wings 22-12 during the final nine minutes.
Gray scored eight and Plum came alive with 10 points in the fourth quarter. A midrange jumper by Gray tied the game at 80-80 with 30 seconds left before McCowan’s layup gave Dallas the lead with 11 seconds remaining.