Updated September 27, 2023 - 7:26 pm
The Aces wanted to win for A’ja Wilson.
The star forward finished third in MVP voting Tuesday behind New York forward Breanna Stewart and Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas. Aces guard Jackie Young said the team needed to take care of business for Wilson in Game 2 of its semifinal matchup against the Dallas Wings.
“She’s our leader,” Young said. “When she’s down, we just have to pick her up. We’re doing this for her. We all wanted her to win.”
Wilson validated her MVP résumé with a 30-point performance to spark the top-seeded Aces to a 91-84 win in the best-of-five series against the No. 4 Wings. The defending champion Aces can secure a sweep Friday at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas.
“I’m blessed to be able to play with a person, athlete and competitor like her,” Chelsea Gray said.
Gray added 23 points and eight assists. Fellow guard Kelsey Plum scored 18 and made four 3-pointers. The Aces shot 46.2 percent from the field and 22 of 25 from the free-throw line.
Guard Arike Ogunbowale scored 24 and made six 3s for Dallas, and forward Satou Sabally had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Dallas had 21 offensive rebounds and took 23 more shots.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Wilson shows out
She didn’t win the MVP award, but Wilson put on another clinic. She hit 10 of 18 shots to go with 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. The two-time MVP also became the first player in playoff history to score 30 points in three consecutive games.
Wilson also had one of the game’s decisive moments with the Aces up 54-51 with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter. She emphatically blocked a Sabally layup, then sprinted down the court for a layup, keeping the Aces ahead. The Wings never got within three points again.
2. Dallas chops and changes
Coach Latricia Trammell made a lineup change, starting 11-year veteran guard Odyssey Sims instead of Crystal Dangerfield, who started 32 games this season. Sims scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in Game 1 in 17 minutes.
The move didn’t necessarily pay off. Sims scored four points and shot 2 of 7 in 28 minutes. Gray, in particular, took advantage without the defensive-minded Dangerfield on the court, hitting 10 of 17 shots.
3. Plum’s third quarter
Plum’s first field goal came with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter. The Aces needed it, as a run by Dallas out of halftime had tied the score 49-49. The shot was a 3-pointer off a Kiah Stokes offensive rebound.
It also was a sign of what was to come.
Plum scored 11 points in the quarter. Both of her field goals were from 3, and she went 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Her scoring boost was needed, but Plum had an impact before her shots started falling. She was a team-best plus-9 in the first half, even though she scored just one point. She added two assists and a steal before halftime.
“I don’t care how many she has missed,” Gray said. “You better close out. I have all the confidence in the world in her.”
Aces lead 2-0
Game 1: Aces 97, Dallas 83
Game 2: Aces 91, Dallas 84
Game 3: 6:30 p.m. Friday at College Park Center, Arlington, Texas
Game 4*: TBD Sunday at College Park Center, Arlington, Texas
Game 5*: TBD Tuesday at Michelob Ultra Arena