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Gordon: Chelsea Gray caps iconic postseason with Finals MVP

They call her the Point God around these parts, but other titles suffice as well.

The best point guard on the planet. A four-time All-Star. A two-time All-WNBA honoree.

Aces point guard Chelsea Gray added two more Sunday after scoring 20 in a 78-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun during Game 4 of the WNBA at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Two-time WNBA champion — and Finals MVP.

Gray concluded perhaps the best individual postseason run in league history, converting 9-of-13 field goals and adding six assists while playing 37 rigorous minutes. She shot 61.1 percent from the field in 10 postseason games, sinking 55.3 percent of her 3-pointers to average 21.7 points and 7.0 assists.

Brilliant statistics that can’t possibly quantify how brilliantly she played.

“Chelsea Gray is about the smartest basketball player I’ve ever been around. … Her IQ is ridiculous,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said after Game 2.

She’s assuredly one of the most clutch, too, adding several fourth-quarter daggers to her résumé throughout her team’s run to the WNBA title.

And to think she wasn’t even an All-Star this season.

‘A different view’

Her omission from the All-Star Game was egregious at the time, but it allowed her some respite, rest and recovery. She enjoyed the company of her younger brother and his fiancee.

“Took a break from basketball, social media and everything,” Gray revealed after Game 2.

But she didn’t stop conditioning, watching film or working out — preparing for the postseason she was destined to dominate.

When the season resumed, Hammon tilted her offense more toward Gray, also a champion in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks. She averaged 15.8 points and 6.2 assists, shooting 54.3 percent from the field in her final 14 games. A 33-point, seven-rebound, nine-assist explosion in the regular-season finale served as a prelude to the playoffs, during which her usage rate would increase as the Aces found their championship formula.

Flanked by two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson and All-Stars Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, Gray could defer to favorable matchups during significant stretches and destroy other ones with her three-level scoring. Wilson often dominated the interior, allowing Gray to pick her spots from the perimter.

“There’s moments in a game where I do not have the ball in my hands, but I’m orchestrating or calling something just because I see it in a different view,” Gray said. “I’ve watched a lot of basketball and I rewatch our games all the time. It’s the little details that make the difference.”

Closing it out

The triples and layups were often tough and timely, the behind-the-back passes dizzying and dynamic. But her pull-up 15-footers are a picture of perfection. She spent the last month burying one after another, demoralizing defender after defender until it became time to defer — doing exactly that Sunday against one of the best defenses in basketball.

The Sun trapped Gray in Game 3, rendering her passive and limiting her to seven shots in the Aces’ only loss in the Finals.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” and that she was, defeating ball screens and subsequent double teams by attacking in isolation.

The closeout game called for scoring from Gray in the first three quarters and facilitation in the fourth, so she gladly deferred to screening actions involving Plum and Riquna Williams.

“It’s not just the points and the assists and the rebounds and the nice passes, but how do I make the next player next to me want to play with me? How do I want my legacy to be?” Gray said after Game 2. “So far, people have wanted to play with me. I think that’s the biggest thing to me, is to make others better.”

That’s the way Gray has always played.

That’s why she’s the Finals MVP.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Folow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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