A’ja Wilson was tired Sunday evening.
“Really tired,” she said after helping the Aces make history during an 84-83 victory over the Washington Mystics at Michelob Ultra Arena.
“I find myself just having to just grind it out,” she added. “At the same time, getting a win like this against Washington — a good team — definitely helps you get back into … the swing of things.”
The Aces erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter Sunday, staging the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history. Wilson had 20 points and 14 rebounds and teammate Liz Cambage added 17 points and seven rebounds before an announced crowd of 3,024.
Chelsea Gray buried the go-ahead jumper with 4.6 seconds to play.
Las Vegas (16-6) trailed by as many as 21 points in the second half, marking the second-biggest overall comeback for the franchise since its inception in 1997. And though coach Bill Laimbeer was satisfied with the victory, he was dissatisfied with the effort during the first three quarters.
“I believe I’m getting too old for a game like this one,” he said. “We did something that we normally don’t do, and that’s make a wild stand and a wild comeback.”
The Aces hadn’t played since July 11 because the WNBA season was paused for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Wilson, Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young traveled abroad to win gold medals, and the team reconvened for practice last week.
For three quarters Sunday, they didn’t look like the team with the league’s best offensive, defensive and net ratings. Rather, a disjointed outfit that hadn’t played together in weeks.
Cambage picked up three quick fouls and played a mere six minutes in the first half. And the Mystics (8-11) pounced by spreading the floor offensively, and attacking a slow rotating defense en route to a 50-35 halftime lead.
“Our timing was off. We were too individualized. It just didn’t work for us for a long time,” Laimbeer said. “Effort is all that we have to be about now. We are talented. There’s no question about that. … It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play hard every minute of every day.”
Cambage avoided foul trouble in the second half though and used her 6-foot-8-inch frame to deter drives to the basket. The Aces strung together defensive stops and began sharing the ball offensively, resulting in open perimeter shots and looks by the basket for their two frontcourt standouts.
Wilson and Cambage combined for 19 of Las Vegas’ 29 points in the fourth quarter and Gray dribbled off a Wilson screen and buried the game-winner in front of Mystics star Tina Charles. Cambage defended Washington guard Ariel Atkins on the final possession of the game, and forced a contested jumper that bounced off the front rim.
“It’s so easy just to toss it away at halftime when you’re down by 20,” Cambage said. “You’ve got to lock in and work back and we did that. It just shows you how great we can be.”
Atkins and Charles scored 20 apiece to lead the Mystics, whom the Aces play again Tuesday at Michelob Ultra Arena.