In front of a record crowd at Mandalay Bay Events Center, the Las Vegas Aces (20-12) came back to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks (19-12), 92-86. In doing so, the Aces not only snapped a three-game losing streak, but also secured the third spot in the standings.
A’ja Wilson led the way for the Aces with a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Kelsey Plum propelled the comeback with a 17-point fourth quarter performance. Dearica Hamby also added a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
However, things began rather auspiciously for the Aces. In the first quarter, missed shots and turnovers beset their offense, with only Wilson finding the basket. Vegas did flash their top-ranked defense on the other end of the floor. Yet, their efforts did not foil Riquna Williams. The Sparks guard fired seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, converting four. Her 14 points gave LA a 23-16 lead.
The second quarter began with more of the same, as Williams swished two quick threes. The Aces answered, with Dearica Hamby stepping out to make one from distance and new Ace Epiphanny Prince netting her second three of the night. But this flurry of threes did not continue, as the remainder of the period was characterized by physicality and fouls. A late run by the Sparks allowed them to enter the second half leading 44-36.
Los Angeles extended its lead in the third due to the efforts of Candace Parker. After a quiet first half, the Sparks star showed off her signature ability to grab the defensive board and lead the offensive break. She also knocked down a pair of shots from deep. Parker ended the night with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Even as Parker began to control the game, Vegas did well to keep Chelsea Gray in check. The length of Tamera Young prevented the “Point Gawd” from working her magic. Despite playing all 10 minutes of the third quarter, Gray went scoreless with only one assist. For the game, Gray had 10 points and seven assists.
On the other end of the floor, the Aces made enough shots to remain in striking distance. Liz Cambage, who only had eight points on the night, put in a pair of tough buckets, while Prince, who finished her first game as an Ace with 10 points, knocked down her third three. Vegas trailed 66-58 entering the fourth quarter.
Kayla McBride opened the fourth with a quick three, a sign of things to come. After the Aces’ shots seemed to refuse to fall all night, their fortunes changed in the fourth.
Or, Kelsey Plum forced this change of fortune.
Coming off the bench for the second straight game, Plum demonstrated her diverse offensive arsenal throughout the quarter, driving to the basket, stopping and popping in the midrange and shooting from distance for 17 fourth-quarter points. Plum finished the night with 20 points.
After McBride tied the game at 70 with another three at the seven-minute mark, A’ja Wilson gave the Aces their first lead of the evening, 74-72, with just under six minutes to play.
With more buckets from Plum, the Aces stretched their advantage to nine points with just over a minute to go.
However, McBride then fouled Williams on a three-point attempt, and made all three free throws to cut to the margin to six points. After both teams combined for a trio of turnovers, Williams struck again, hitting a tough midrange jumper, her 37th point of the night, to make the packed house more than a bit uncomfortable.
But two free throws from Dearica Hamby, followed by misses from Williams on the Sparks’ next two possessions, allowed the Aces to claim the comeback win.
The Sparks welcome the Atlanta Dream to LA on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3/League Pass).
The Aces head to Atlanta for a Thursday, Sept. 5 game, also against the Atlanta Dream (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).