The Las Vegas Aces went on a 24-0 run in the third quarter and won 93-76 in Game 4 of their semifinal series on Wednesday night at Footprint Center, giving the Phoenix Mercury a taste of their own medicine after the blowout wins Phoenix posted in Games 2 and 3.
The Aces victory tied the series at 2-2 and forced a Game 5 on Friday at 9 p.m. at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Vegas.
The Aces won the third 29-11 after leading by just three at halftime. The Microwave (Riquna Williams) heated up with 11 points in a span of two minutes and 21 seconds in the frame. She finished with 17 points. Chelsea Gray (22 points, six assists) added eight points in the quarter and Kelsey Plum (20 points, six assists) had five as the Aces backcourt controlled the game.
Vegas’ best player, forward A’ja Wilson, bounced back from a 2-of-14 performance in Game 3 by going 7-of-13 from the field with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
The Aces won Game 1 by six, lost Game 2 by 26 and lost Game 3 by 27.
“Obviously a different outcome this game compared to the last one,” said Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer. “A large part of that is our effort. Last game ... was not pretty to watch on film. We showed (the players). They understood that they didn’t put forth the effort. Tonight they did. I thought one through 11, even including (injured) Angel McCoughtry, were all into the game from start to finish. That’s who we are. And we played a solid basketball game, no question about it.”
“I think that for us, getting beat the way that we did the past two games, it’s humbling,” Plum said. “You look yourself in the mirror, ‘what can I do better as an individual, what can I do better to help the team.’ And I was just really proud of everyone that bought in tonight. It was a lot of fun.”
After a decent first quarter, the Aces trailed by four. They continued to put the pressure on Phoenix early in the second and took the lead on a 3-pointer from Gray at the 6:40 mark. That was the beginning of Gray scoring seven-straight Vegas points and 10 of 12. The Aces would lead by as much as five in the frame.
Vegas surrendered 34 points to the combination of Shey Peddy, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith in the first half, but held Brittney Griner to six. Peddy was 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc in the game.
The Aces were in danger of falling far behind early for the third-straight game. Phoenix led 8-0 on a mid-range shot from Griner and threes from Peddy and Taurasi. But the Vegas backcourt went on a 9-0 run to take the score from 11-2 Mercury to 11-11. Wilson got going a bit later in the frame and had eight points, five boards and two blocks at the break.
“When I’m aggressive, we look like a different team,” Wilson said. “And I gotta just take it and go for it. Not necessarily force shots or jack up shots because I trust that my guards will put me in the best situation. But at the end of the day I gotta be more aggressive, I gotta be more assertive, because that’s when we’re rocking and rolling.”
The Aces lost points in the paint by two and had to uncharacteristically make more threes than their opponent. They were 11-of-22 from distance while Phoenix was 8-of-19.
Vegas turned the ball over nine less times than the Mercury.
Mercury guard Kia Nurse injured her knee 39 seconds into the game on a layup attempt that was blocked cleanly by Wilson. Her status for Game 5 is unknown. Another Phoenix guard, Sophie Cunningham, missed Game 4 with a calf strain after being listed as questionable on Tuesday.