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Aces take care of business, romp past Sky in playoff opener — PHOTOS

Updated September 13, 2023 - 10:09 pm

As time expired in the first half, Aces guard Kelsey Plum launched a shot from half-court to beat the buzzer.

The ball kissed off the backboard and rolled around the inside of the rim before harmlessly bouncing out.

It was about the only thing that went wrong for the Aces in their playoff opener.

The top-seeded Aces took care of business Wednesday, securing a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series against the No. 8 Chicago Sky with an 87-59 win in front of 12,927 fans at T-Mobile Arena.

“We’re not going to be satisfied over one win,” reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said. “Yes, we’re not going to take this win for granted, and we’re going to embrace it, but we’ve got a couple more to win.”

Five Aces reached double figures in scoring, led by guard Chelsea Gray’s 20-point, seven-assist performance. Guard Jackie Young scored 18 and made three 3-pointers, while Plum had 16 points. Wilson added 14 points, while reserve forward Alysha Clark had 13 points in her first playoff game with the Aces.

All-Star guard Kahleah Copper scored 15 points for the Sky. No other Chicago player reached double figures.

The Aces can advance to the WNBA semifinals by winning Game 2 at noon Sunday at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

1. Defense shines

All season, Aces coach Becky Hammon has asked her team to play a full 40 minutes of defense. The Aces answered against the Sky.

Chicago shot just 33.3 percent from the floor and went 5 of 22 from 3. The Aces also forced 14 turnovers, which they turned into 16 points. Sky coach Emre Vatansever said the Aces congested the floor and were active in Chicago’s passing lanes, as his team only managed 14 assists.

Wilson credited starting center Kiah Stokes for the Aces’ defensive performance.

Hammon said her team was engaged defensively from the beginning. While they mixed in some different defenses on Copper, the team’s focus and effort was the difference, Hammon said.

“The second and third effort was there tonight,” Hammon said. “Sometimes that can be missing in Game 33, but it was there tonight.”

2. Balanced ‘Core Four’

The Aces’ offense fired on all cylinders during their Game 1 romp, as all four of the team’s All-Stars led a balanced barrage in the first half.

Plum led all scorers with 13 points at the break, while Wilson, Gray and Young also reached double figures in the first half. The “Core Four” combined to shoot 25 of 58, scoring 68 points. Gray and Young had 13 assists between them.

“Player movement and ball movement, that made the difference,” Gray said.

3. Hammon shortens bench

Hammon was bound to cut her already short rotation down at some point in the playoffs. Reserve guards Sydney Colson and Kierstan Bell played fewer than four minutes each in the first half.

Australian center Cayla George, who averaged 10.2 minutes per game across the Aces’ final six regular-season games, didn’t play until Hammon pulled her starters.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.c0m. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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