Phoenix Mercury 6-foot-9-inch center Brittney Griner is one of the WNBA’s tallest players. But 6-4 Aces power forward A’ja Wilson stood a little taller when it mattered most Tuesday night.
Wilson missed 12 of her first 15 shots, but scored nine of her 19 points in overtime to power the Aces to an 84-79 victory at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The Aces improved to 19-9 and trail the Washington Mystics (20-7) and Connecticut Sun (19-8) for a top-two seed in the playoffs — for which they clinched a berth Sunday — and double bye into the semifinals. They will play at Connecticut on Friday.
“When you’re an offensive person, when you miss shots, you get pissed off,” said Wilson, who missed eight full games with a sprained left ankle and hadn’t played a home game in six weeks. “The fact that my teammates still trusted me with the basketball is something I take a lot of pride. I knew I had to execute the best way that I could.”
Las Vegas played primarily through its post players en route to a 38-38 halftime tie. Liz Cambage was a force on the block, powering her way to 15 points and eight rebounds. But Wilson shot 2 of 10 and struggled against the length and athleticism in Phoenix’s frontcourt.
Griner battled with Cambage and scored 18 points to keep the Mercury afloat in the first half. Phoenix power forward DeWanna Bonner scored 17 points in the second half and helped the Mercury seize a 73-66 lead with 4:02 left in the fourth quarter.
“All teams right now are playing playoff games,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They’ve very capable of beating anybody. They’re very experienced. We’re trying to learn. So I give them credit for hanging in. And I give our team credit for hanging in.”
Phoenix didn’t score for the remainder of regulation, and Las Vegas rallied on Jackie Young’s 3-pointer, Kayla McBride’s layup and Cambage’s game-tying layup with 22.2 seconds left.
Griner missed the potential game-winning jumper to set up Wilson’s heroics and a subsequent standing ovation after she made a layup with 11.8 seconds to play.
“The atmosphere was great,” Wilson said. “That is something that pushes you to the next level in overtime, or in the fourth quarter or in those slumps.”
Griner and Bonner scored 24 apiece to lead Phoenix but combined for two points in overtime.
Cambage finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Young had eight points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.