Chelsea Gray hit a step-back mid-range shot from the right elbow with four seconds left to give the Las Vegas Aces an 84-83 lead and the Washington Mystics’ Ariel Atkins, guarded by Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson, missed a decent look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer, allowing the Aces to hold on to a 21-point comeback victory and move into first place in the WNBA on Sunday at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
Wilson (20 points, 14 rebounds) had hit a quick-release jumper from the free throw line off a nice assist from Gray (eight points, 11 assists) with 32 seconds remaining to cut Vegas’ deficit to one. The Aces won the fourth 29-14. A Myisha Hines-Allen reverse layup with 1:52 to go in the third had put them down 21.
Vegas finished the third on a 9-2 run and opened the fourth on an 8-0 run to cut it to six. Cambage (17 points, seven rebounds) scored eight of the points during the combined 17-2 stretch.
Washington went back up by eight on an Atkins mid-range make with 2:31 to play. Back-to-back Wilson layups then cut it to four and Jackie Young (14 points) added three more points to cut it to one. Natasha Cloud made a difficult layup for the Mystics with 38 ticks remaining that made it 83-80 in her team’s favor, but the Aces completed their comeback in the end thanks to Wilson and Gray.
Dearica Hamby added six points and eight boards to the winning cause, while Riquna Williams and Kelsey Plum scored nine and eight points, respectively.
Tina Charles finished with 20 points and eight rebounds for the Mystics while Atkins also notched 20 points. Cloud was good for 11 points and 10 helpers and Hines-Allen posted 16 points and eight boards in her return from a knee injury that had kept her out since June 17. The Mystics were expected to be better with Hines-Allen on the floor and it’s scary to think how good they could be with Elena Delle Donne back, considering they led the best team in the league by 21 without her.
However, the bigger story than the Mystics’ strong showing ended up being the Aces claiming first place in thrilling fashion. The Seattle Storm lost in overtime to the Chicago Sky earlier in the day, allowing the Aces to tie them at 16-6. Las Vegas has the tiebreaker over Seattle due to a 2-1 head-to-head record.
“It was just a very frustrating experience for three quarters,” Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer said after Sunday’s game. “And then we did something that we normally don’t do — make a wild stand, a wild comeback. ... But I give Washington credit, they played very well.”
“It’s a great lesson learned without being painful. I think that’s what today was about. We pulled one out we probably shouldn’t have. ... It’s a lesson that we have to play that hard against every team in this league. And we did it for a quarter. Or maybe a quarter and five minutes someplace hit or miss. That can't happen. We want to win, we want to compete for a championship. We have to show up every night, every minute, every day and play hard.”
The Aces were able to defeat the Mystics (8-11) with similar 3-point shooting efficiency, though they made seven less treys. They outscored the Mystics 38-28 in the paint and outrebounded them 38-33. They also made eight more free throws.
Chicago Sky (11-10) over Seattle Storm (16-6), 87-85 (OT)
Chicago’s Allie Quigley (17 points, eight rebounds, four assists) made back-to-back threes with 71 and 46 seconds to go in the fourth, respectively, to force overtime and the usually clutch Jewell Loyd (26 points, five steals) missed a layup at the buzzer of OT, allowing the Sky to hold on and defeat a Storm team that was resting stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird.
Candace Parker (12 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) made a key layup with 1:06 to go in OT that gave Chicago a much-needed four-point cushion. Because of it, Loyd’s layup with 31 ticks remaining cut the Sky’s lead to two instead of tying the game.
Kahleah Copper led the Sky with four points in OT and 19 points in the game. She also had four assists. Courtney Vandersloot notched 11 assists and eight boards while Diamond DeShields tossed in 13 points.
Ezi Magbegor had 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in defeat while Mercedes Russell (10 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) and Epiphanny Prince (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) were solid across the stat sheet.
Connecticut Sun (15-6) over Dallas Wings (9-13), 80-59
The Sun made a statement after being blown out in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game. Meanwhile, this was disappointing for Dallas, which had a lot of people talking in the first half of the season.
Jonquel Jones went off for 19 points, 15 rebounds and four assists for the winners while teammates Brionna Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas scored 16 points, 14 points and 12 points, respectively. B. Jones added seven boards and Thomas dished out four assists. Both Bonner and Thomas had four steals. Briann January contributed nine points and five helpers.
Arike Ogunbowale had 20 points and five assists in defeat.
Connecticut won on the offensive glass 9-1 and had 13 second chance points compared to zero for Dallas. The teams’ shooting percentages were similar, but the Sun forced 21 Wings turnovers and committed just 12.
Minnesota Lynx (13-7) over New York Liberty (10-12), 88-78
Led by double-doubles from Napheesa Collier (18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, five blocks) and Sylvia Fowles (20 points, 11 rebounds, three steals), the Lynx came back from down one entering the fourth. Natasha Howard scored 30 points for the Liberty in her return from a knee injury that had kept her out since May 24.
Kayla McBride added 16 points to the winning cause while Layshia Clarendon dished out eight assists. Sabrina Ionescu had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in defeat.
Phoenix Mercury (10-10) over Atlanta Dream (6-14), 92-81
Skylar Diggins Smith (19 points, seven assists), Diana Taurasi (18 points, six assists) and Brianna Turner (10 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks) played to their strengths in order to secure the Phoenix win. Brittney Griner added 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks while Sophie Cunningham posted a season-high 17 points.
Courtney Williams was phenomenal with 30 points and six assists in defeat.
Phoenix led by 11 after one, but by just five at the break before an even third quarter. It won the fourth 29-23. 3-point shooting (10-of-25 to 3-of-17) and free throw shooting (12-of-17 to 4-of-7) were key areas where the Mercury gained advantages.
Los Angeles Sparks (7-13) over Indiana Fever (4-17), 75-70
LA’s Brittney Sykes had 16 points and seven rebounds and the Sparks won the fourth 16-11. Amanda Zahui B. added 13 points, nine boards and three blocks for the winners while Nneka Ogwumike had 12 points, seven boards and two blocks in her return from a knee injury that had kept her out since June 1. Erica Wheeler rounded out the Sparks’ double-figure scorers with 12 points to go along with her six assists.
Kelsey Mitchell was good for 20 points and six rebounds in defeat.
The Sparks shot much better from the field (43.9 percent to 33.3 percent) and won the battle in the paint 36-24.