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Aces move within 1 win of WNBA title after Game 2 blowout

Updated September 13, 2022 - 10:16 pm

Aces guard Kelsey Plum has been frustrated. She knows she hasn’t played to her potential in the WNBA playoffs.

In her place, the Aces have leaned on forward A’ja Wilson and guard Chelsea Gray, but before Game 2 of the finals, the team made it clear it needed Plum to step up her game.

“I’m just glad they’ve been carrying it, and I decided to join the party,” she said.

A party that will become a celebration with one more win. Plum scored 20 points to help the Aces to an 85-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night before a sold-out crowd of 10,211 at Michelob Ultra Arena, giving them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Wilson finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Gray added 21 points and eight assists as the Aces moved within one victory of the franchise’s first title. They can complete the sweep Thursday in Connecticut.

Coach Becky Hammon credited her players for stepping up to the challenge, especially on the defensive end.

“At the end of the day, they’ve got to go out and do it,” she said, “and they do.”

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. Plum’s redemption

After going 1 of 9 from the field in Game 1, Plum didn’t waste any time finding her touch in Game 2. She hit her first field goal, a layup with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter, and finished the first half with 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

Plum drove to the rim instead of settling for 3-pointers, consistently blowing by Sun guard Courtney Williams. She was going to the free-throw line when she wasn’t hitting layups, going 5 of 5.

“The difference really in the game was Plum getting downhill,” Hammon said.

Plum made 7 of 13 shots but continued to struggle on 3-pointers, going 1 of 6. She added seven assists against one turnover, a steal and and three rebounds.

2. Reserves show up

The Sun have the league’s Sixth Player of the Year in center Brionna Jones, but the Aces’ bench showed up again.

Reserves Riquna Williams and Dearica Hamby slotted in seamlessly. Both were plus-eight in the first half and brought defensive versatility and toughness.

Hamby had three points, two assists, four rebounds and a block, finishing plus-16 in 18 minutes, her longest run since returning Sept. 4 from a right knee bruise. Williams had five points, a rebound, a steal and was plus-12 in 16 minutes.

3. Wilson shines again

Wilson might have helped inspire Plum’s performance, but the league’s MVP continued to dominate.

“It’s absolutely a treat for basketball people that are watching to see what she is doing,” Plum said.

Wilson hit 10 of 13 shots, had one block and was a team-best plus-18 in 37 minutes. It’s the fifth consecutive game she has scored at least 20 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. She is the first player to achieve the feat in playoff history.

“That’s when you start building a legacy for yourself,” Gray said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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