On her bobblehead night at Michelob ULTRA Arena, Chelsea Gray made the go-ahead mid-range shot at 2:14 remaining, added another mid-range make 25 seconds later for a three-point Las Vegas Aces lead and assisted the Kelsey Plum three that made it 84-78 Vegas with 1:06 remaining. She added a 4-of-4 effort from the charity stripe over the remainder of the game, which the Aces won 88-80 over the Indiana Fever Monday night in Las Vegas.
It was another beautiful late-game performance by the best closer in the world, who finished with a game-high 25 points and a game-high five assists.
WNBA All-Star Game captain A’ja Wilson’s 22 first-half points highlighted a pretty epic battle between the Aces (13-1) and the previously-futile Fever, who seem like a legit playoff contender this season. Indiana (5-9, tied eighth place) led by one at the break and by as much as six. No. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston went toe-to-toe with Wilson, outscoring her 10-2 in the third en route to 20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in defeat. Wilson finished with 24 points, 10 boards, three helpers, three swipes and three rejections.
Plum, a 39.5 percent career 3-point shooter, was 2-of-9 from beyond the arc on the night, but her two makes were huge ones. The first capped a 13-3 run and made it 74-64 Vegas with 5:31 to go. It was the peak of the Aces’ momentum for the night.
The Fever responded with a 7-0 run featuring a Kristy Wallace three and an Erica Wheeler three and eventually took a 78-77 lead with 2:27 to go on a Wheeler layup. But Gray’s closing abilities were just too good.
Plum finished with 17 points and three assists, Jackie Young had 16 points and Candace Parker had 12 rebounds, three helpers and two blocks to go along with her one point. Gray was 8-of-13 from the field and 8-of-8 from the stripe. She is 25-of-26 from the stripe on the season. Wilson and Plum were both 7-of-7 on free throws on Monday night; Young was 4-of-4.
NaLyssa Smith aided the Fever with 13 points and 14 boards while Wheeler (three assists) matched Boston with 20 points. Kelsey Mitchell scored 10 of the Fever’s first 14 points but finished with just four more.
Plum started the 13-3 Aces run with a 5-0 individual run. She scored inside to make it 63-61 Vegas at 2:10 remaining in the third. Then came a jump ball between Wilson and Boston. Plum got the ball off that and drove right into Lexie Hull on the other end. A blocking foul was called, as well as a technical on Fever head coach Christie Sides, who wanted an explanation. Plum made the technical free throw plus the two awarded for the block to make it 66-61.
The third was back and forth until that 5-0 Plum run.
Gray opened the second with a straightaway three that tied the game. She was fouled by Wallace on the play and it was upgraded to a flagrant 1 for a reckless closeout after a review. Gray made a free throw and Parker made a free throw over the remainder of the possession, giving Vegas five points on the trip and a 25-23 lead.
Maya Caldwell answered all that with a 3-point play that put the Fever back up one. Vegas went up four at 31-27 only to see Indiana tie it at 31. The Aces then went back up four at 35-31 before the Fever went on a 6-0 run to lead 37-35. Boston was fouled on a Hull three and made her free throw for a 4-point play that made it 37-35.
Wheeler orchestrated a 4-0 run with two free throws followed by a steal-turned-assist to Boston that made it 41-37 Fever. The rest of the second was back and forth and the frame ended with a flurry of scoring. A Hull steal at six seconds remaining before halftime led to a Smith layup at two seconds before the Aces came right back up the floor for a Wilson layup that cut Vegas’ deficit to 49-48 at the buzzer.
A Gray pass sailed out of bounds on the game’s opening possession. Boston scored on the ensuing possession off an offensive rebound to make it 2-0. A second Vegas turnover (a Wilson travel), led to a reverse layup by Mitchell, and a third (a Boston steal) led to a Mitchell catch-and-shoot three from the right corner that made it 7-2 Fever.
A straightaway three from Mitchell made it 14-8 Fever. Vegas answered that with a 7-0 run featuring four points from Wilson and a pull-up transition three from Young. Indiana responded with a 5-0 run to go up 19-15 and led 23-20 after one.
The Aces won despite losing the turnover margin by seven and points in the paint 40-28.