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Aces respond to coach’s message, edge Dream

Aces coach Becky Hammon called a timeout with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter. The Atlanta Dream hadn’t missed a shot.

Hammon admitted her message to the team wasn’t particularly family friendly.

“If we were on the grade school playground, we would’ve got our lunches snatched,” Hammon said. “We couldn’t guard nothing.”

Whatever she said worked. The Aces re-emerged and did just enough to beat the Dream 97-90 Tuesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Forward A’ja Wilson led the way for the Aces with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Guards Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray each scored 22, and wing Jackie Young added 20 — only the fourth time in WNBA history a team has had four 20-point scorers in a game.

“They were kind of taking turns,” Hammon said. “That’s super hard to guard.”

The Aces (24-10) welcome the reigning champions and No. 1 seed Chicago Sky (25-9) to Michelob Ultra Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s game:

1. Young starts hot

During the most recent meeting between the Aces and Dream (14-20) on July 19, Young went 3 of 7 from 3. It was the last time she made at least three 3s in a game until Tuesday.

Young needed one quarter and three attempts to match her efforts from the July loss. She was in rhythm early, going 3 of 3 on 3-pointers and scoring 11 points in the first quarter.

“She’s efficient, super efficient,” Hammon said.

Young made a career-high four 3s on six attempts.

2. Hamby injured

The Aces lost a key piece of their rotation.

All-Star forward Dearica Hamby went up for a layup and was called for traveling with 8:11 remaining in the second quarter. She landed awkwardly and immediately went down clutching her right knee. The two-time sixth player of the year was helped to the locker room and did not return.

“We’ll take some pictures of it and see what’s going on,” Hammon said. “She does have quite a bit of pain walking.”

Hamby came off the bench for the second time this season after starting the first 32 games. She was replaced in the rotation by Iliana Rupert, who scored six points and made a key deflection in the closing moments.

3. Plum closes out

It won’t go down as the prettiest 22-point performance of her career, but Plum hit the shots the Aces needed down the stretch. She started slowly, scoring four points in the first half, but impacted the game by adding four assists.

“Her evolution in that area has been impressive,” Hammon said.

Plum also put pressure on the rim when her 3 refused to fall, forcing the Dream to compensate. Her drives created open shots for teammates.

Her shots finally started to fall, as Plum hit two 3s in the fourth quarter.

“At the end of the day, you can play well and miss shots,” Plum said. “I feel like we’re past the point of evaluating good or bad games based on made or missed shots.”

Plum finished with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting with eight assists and a game-best plus-17.

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

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