LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Aces bounced back after losing the Commissioner’s Cup by defeating the Liberty 88-75.
After falling to the Liberty in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game in their last matchup the Aces came out on a mission. Chelsea Gray recorded the first triple double in Aces franchise history with 22 points 11 assist and 11 rebounds for the first triple double in Aces franchise history.
Chelsea Gray led the Aces with 22 points 11 assist and 11 rebounds, while A’ja Wilson finished with 21 points, Kelsey Plum added 18 points and Jackie Young had 16.
Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty with 22 points, followed by Betnijah Laney who finished with 17 points, Breanna Stewart added 13 points.
The New York Liberty started off where they left off getting out to a early 8-0 lead forcing an early Aces timeout. The Aces would come out of that timeout energized with Chelsea Gray leading the charge to put the Aces in front 21-19 late in the first quarter. Kierstan Bell was huge off the bench in the first half making all the hustle plays and coming up with big steals and offensive rebounds. The Aces got off to a much better start in the first half and led by thirteen at the half. New York would fight their way back into the game with Ionescu getting hot from three knocking down three threes in the third quarter to cut the Aces lead to 4. In the fourth quarter the Aces defense was at its best holding the Liberty to just 11 points on 4-9 shooting well scoring 20 points. The Aces defense forced 16 turnovers which resulted in 21 points well only turning the ball over 8 times. A’ja Wilson bounced back after struggling last game finishing with 21 points on 7-13 shooting.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Aces bench steps up
After a game where the Liberty bench would dominate the Aces with Marine Johannes leading the way with 17 points off the bench. This game would be the complete opposite with the Aces bench coming out energized and getting after it at both ends of the court. The Aces defense slow down Johannes who finished with 6 points on 2-4 shooting. Alysha Clark, Kierstan Bell and Cayla George all were huge in the game with all three players having a positive plus minus after having a negative plus minus last game. Kierstan Bell and Alysha Clark played a huge role off the bench slowing defend Breanna Stewart. Bell was huge off the bench hustling for 50-50 balls, grabbing three offensive rebounds, giving the Aces extra chances, and also providing the intensity on defense, grabbing two steals.
“I told her this morning she is gonna be in the mix and she is just earning her trust minute by minute,” Hammon said. “I think I was probably the most pleased with her 3 offensive rebounds she got us extra possessions. Even the other night there was a couple of rotations where I am like she was the only one rotating she covered 25 feet of ground, she’s the next women up.”
Aces slow down Liberty Front court
In the last matchup on Tuesday the Liberty bigs gave the Aces all they could handle with Jonquel Jones dominating and getting the Commissioner’s Cup MVP. Just 48 hours later it was a different story as the Aces attacked Jonquel Jones getting her in early foul trouble. Breanna Stewart also struggled in the game with the Aces switching up coverages every-time down with some possessions doubling her off the catch and others playing her straight up. Stewart finished the game with 13 points on 3-15 shooting and Jonquel Jones finished the game with 8 points on 3-5 shooting.
“Its no secret they have a lot of offensive weapons but if we can make there looks difficult, if we can disrupt their timing, get in the passing lanes and make them catch it two feet off the block rather than right there on the block,” Gray said. “I think thats when you see the disruption happen the deflections and you see the loose balls and us diving on the floor and getting the 50-50 balls at the free throw line and the baseline.”
Chelsea Gray makes history
Chelsea Gray came out on a mission carving up the defense all game and getting to the basket at will but she also was huge on the glass. Gray recorded a 22 point triple double with 11 assist and 11 rebounds which is the first triple double in Aces franchise history. Chelsea also got it done on the defensive end getting in the passing lanes and coming up with 3 steals. Gray’s triple double is the first triple double in franchise history since relocating to Vegas. Margo Dydek had a triple double back in 2001 when the Aces were the Utah Starzz with 12 ponts 11 rebounds and 10 blocks.
“She is one of the most competitive people I know,” Hammon said. “You feel really good when Chelsea Gray is on your team. She is just determined she is a studier so she went back and she watched and she takes it personal.”
The Aces will finish off the home stand with a matchup against the La Sparks on Saturday with tip off set for 12 pm.