Las Vegas won Game 1 despite Connecticut dictating the style of play. In Game 2, the Aces found their offensive pace early and maintained it — that led to a comfortable 85-71 win, putting them one victory away from the first championship in franchise history.
The star of the show was once again the M’VP. A’ja Wilson finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, including 18 in the first half as Las Vegas built a 14-point lead. The Aces limited all of the Sun’s strengths: they outscored Connecticut 46-28 in points in the paint and limited the Sun to six offensive rebounds, equaling their opponents in total rebounds.
Connecticut had no answers for Wilson, and didn’t have enough offense to keep pace in a shootout. Courtney Williams came to play with 18 points and much better decision-making (zero turnovers), but the quartet of Natisha Hiedeman, DeWanna Bonner, Odyssey Sims, and DiJonai Carrington combined for eight total points. Meanwhile, the Aces had two guards with at least 20 points apiece.
Chelsea Gray got off to a slow start, at least by her raging hot standards, but Kelsey Plum was there to pick up the slack. Plum hasn’t been able to find her jumper over the last few weeks, but she finally realized that no one could stop her from driving to the basket, especially when the Aces improved their spacing and provided her open lanes to the hoop. For some reason, the Sun kept letting her go left, too. Plum made all six of her shots in the restricted area and added five free throws. She finished with 20 points and seven assists, as her drive-and-kick game got going as well.
An important turning point in the game was when the benches came in. At the start of the second quarter of Game 1, Becky Hammon tried to steal some rest for Gray and Wilson. It backfired, as the Sun got into a rhythm that allowed them to reset the flow of the game.
In Game 2, Hammon staggered the rest for her two superstars, leaving Wilson in against Connecticut’s bench unit, and it had a two-pronged benefit. Defensively, the Aces were able to stay solid with their DPOY anchor, completely shutting off the water for the Sun backup guards. And then Wilson got to eat against Bri Jones, the least defensively capable big of Connecticut’s frontcourt trio. Wilson was scoring against everyone, but she had particular ease against Jones. The score was 14-14 when the benches came in, and the lead reached 13 in the middle of the second quarter before the Sun turned to their jumbo lineup.
It helped that Hammon used Dearica Hamby in the first half Tuesday. Hamby had another ho-hum box score line, but was plus-16 for the game, filling the gaps and keeping Connecticut off the glass.
Las Vegas had a brief scare in the third quarter when Gray rolled her ankle and had to go back to the locker room. But she came back and immediately barrelled her way to the hoop for two of her 10 points to finish out the game.
Connecticut’s only real hope of guarding Gray is with Alyssa Thomas since Hiedeman and Williams are too slight, but that causes problems in the Sun’s help defense, and Wilson has made them pay whenever anybody but Thomas is on her — and even when Thomas is.
It was clear after Game 1 that if the Aces could get a win with only two players scoring, they would be impossible to contain if a third scorer found her rhythm. That was Plum on Tuesday, and Connecticut couldn’t come close to Las Vegas. And that means this series could be over as early as Thursday.