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Aces set for big test with point guard back: ‘We definitely missed her’

Chelsea Gray isn’t going to fix everything overnight. The Aces know that.

The point guard’s presence was a jolt the team needed, however.

Gray, who made her season debut in the Aces’ 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm on Wednesday, could see an increased workload when the club wraps up a three-game homestand against the 13-1 Connecticut Sun at Michelob Ultra Arena on Friday.

Wednesday was Gray’s first appearance for the team since Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals on Oct. 15 because of a foot injury. She had one point, four rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in 15:30 off the bench against the Storm.

“I’m good,” Gray said. “Good to go.”

The Aces (7-6) had a number of players run the offense in Gray’s absence.

Guards Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum both did well when filling in. Young is averaging six assists per game this season, the fifth-most in the WNBA. Plum’s 4.9 assists per game are the 11th-most in the league.

“People are really adaptable,” Gray said. “It’s next player up. You have people like Jackie and KP going at the (point guard) a little more than they’re used to, playing out of position and trying to be successful for the team and themselves.”

Young and Plum kept the Aces scoring without Gray.

The team’s 87.4 points per game are the most in the WNBA. Star forward A’ja Wilson is the league’s leading scorer, averaging 27.9 points per game. She’s scored 20 or more points in all 13 of the Aces’ games so far.

The issue has been defense. The Aces have allowed at least 83 points in five straight games, though they did hold Seattle to 32 in the first half Wednesday.

Gray said the difference was the team was more physical against the Storm.

“Just engaged from the point of attack,” Gray said. “Everybody was just locked in. If we defend, we’re really, really hard to beat.”

One of the Aces’ calling cards during their 34-6 season last year was their ability to turn defense into offense.

Gray should be able to get that transition game going. The Aces had 15 fastbreak points Wednesday.

Their next challenge will be one of their toughest yet. Connecticut is allowing 70.7 points per game, the fewest in the WNBA.

“Connecticut’s going to make you beat them. They’re never going to beat themselves. That’s why they’re so good,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “They’re just so solid in what they do. Their identity is really sturdy in who they are and how they want to play.”

Gray isn’t going to fix the Aces’ defense overnight. But her presence should allow the team to find more of a rhythm on that end.

The Aces will need it against the Sun, who boast the WNBA’s best record.

“It feels great having (Gray) back,” Young said. “We definitely missed her. She had been a coach for us on the sideline. She sees a lot of things we don’t see. Even though she wasn’t on the court with us for a few games, she was still active for us. Having her back is great.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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