Despite an interesting start to the game for Team Parker, they were able to regroup and come from behind to beat Team Delle Donne, 119-112, in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game.
Liz Cambage tipped the ball to Chelsea Gray to start the game, and Gray dribbled toward the hoop as her fellow Team Parker teammates shuffled around the floor, momentarily unsure of which basket was theirs. As the sellout crowd at Target Center erupted in good-natured laughter, Cambage finally sprinted back from the other side of the court, took the ball from Gray and playfully tried to lay it in for the game’s first points, but missed.
“It’s a play we drew up called ‘Confusion,’” Maya Moore told ESPN’s Holly Rowe at the beginning of the second quarter. “The point was to get everyone really lost so that Chelsea [Gray] could come and hit that three [on the next possession].”
In subsequent possessions, further “confusion” ensued — though the fun kind, accompanied by more crowd laughter — as the 6-foot-8 Cambage assumed the point guard role, calling plays as she dribbled down the court to kick-start the offense for Team Parker.
“I think that was just a little fun,” said Skylar Diggins-Smith, Cambage’s Dallas Wings and Team Parker teammate. “I think she’s great and all, but when we get back to Dallas, I’m going to take over some of those responsibilities.”
Team Parker could have used some of that attempted offense early, down by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before bringing the score within 4 points at the half.
Taking full advantage of her first minutes and contributing to Team Parker’s early deficit was rookie A’ja Wilson of Team Delle Donne, who came into the game in the second quarter and promptly scored 8 points in a row, and 12 for the quarter, as the first player in the game to reach double figures. She was one of three players to finish with 18 points.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wilson said of her experience. “Of course we didn’t get the win, and I love to win, but all and all it was a lot of fun being out there with no pressure and playing the game that I love.”
With the third quarter came Team Parker’s resurgence, mainly in the form of Moore, the eventual All-Star Game MVP. In the second half, she broke the career All-Star Game scoring record, passing Tamika Catchings’ 108 points on her way to a line of 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in front of her home crowd.
“I think I did hear that stat, and I had no idea,” Moore said. “It’s one of those things, you keep showing up, keep doing what you do, doing what you love to do, and fortunately we win the game because you can’t get MVP if you don’t win the game.”
The second half also featured 21 of Kristi Toliver’s game-high 23 points, all of which came from beyond the arc. Although she ended up on the losing side with Team Delle Donne, her 7 threes tied Shoni Schimmel’s 2014 record for threes made in an All-Star Game.
While Team Delle Donne attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter — the highest-scoring quarter of the game, with 69 total points — they ended up hanging back in the game’s final seconds rather than having someone commit the game’s fourth total foul to slow things down.
But that also meant that, in those final seconds, Cambage found herself with the ball in her hands and promptly became the sixth player to throw down a dunk in an All-Star Game.
“It took a lot for me,” Cambage said. “I wanted to pull up and shoot the three, but Candace [Parker] told me to go dunk it.”
In spite of the outcome, both Parker and Delle Donne were both enthusiastic about the teams they picked and how the game played out.
“Everybody is here for a reason,” Parker said. “So it was just about having fun and playing with players and being in the locker room with players you haven’t been with.”
Delle Donne added, “It’s just fun changing it up, us doing the same thing for so long, change it up, get to be with different players, and it’s all about having a good time.”
Other All-Star Game tidbits:
- Allie Quigley successfully defended her three-point contest title at halftime, putting up a blistering 29 points in the tiebreaker round to defeat Kayla McBride. “It was a little bit more interesting than I thought it was going to be with the tiebreaker,” Quigley said. “But so many good shooters in that group, I’m just really happy that I was able to get in the zone there and win it.” Quigley was also the third player, along with Wilson and Moore, to score 18 points in the game.
- Meanwhile, Liz Cambage suggested some improvements to the three-point contest: “We need some big girls in the three-point contest, even if it’s guards go first and bigs go second. Me and BG [Brittney Griner] were saying that while they were shooting because we were bitter. We felt left out today. But yeah, let’s get the big girls in there.”
- Kristi Toliver had the best favorite moment of the game: “I think [my favorite moment] was definitely taking the foul on Maya [Moore]. We had four to give, so I thought it was a pretty strategic move on my part.”
- WNBA All-Star Game 2019 will be held in Las Vegas! WNBA President Lisa Borders made the announcement pregame. At the Aces home opener in May, Borders said of the team’s move to Las Vegas: “We are a dynamic young league at 22 years of age. This gives us the ability to be very nimble and very innovative in not only what we do, but how we do it.” With this decision made so soon after the Aces’ inception, Borders must like what she’s seeing in Vegas so far.
JUST ANNOUNCED— Las Vegas Aces ♦️♠️ (@LVAces) July 28, 2018
The 2019 @WNBA All-Star Game is coming to Las Vegas!
It’s time to up the ante! No bluffs, you can bet it’s going to be a Full House so visit https://t.co/bH72vNLvKH to place your All-Star Ticket deposit.#ALLIN #LVAces ♦️♠️ pic.twitter.com/LKQ1kaxXCg