LAS VEGAS — On a night when Kelsey Plum missed her first seven three-point attempts, she only needed one to turn things around.
Plum’s first made three-pointer came with 5:31 remaining in the game to give the Las Vegas Aces their first double-digit lead of the game as they came back to defeat the Indiana Fever, 88-80, to improve to 13-1 on the season and 7-0 at home.
“Her competitiveness is never in question, neither is her shooting”, Hammon said. “She shoots it. I always think it’s going in. I don’t care if she (has no points) coming into the fourth quarter or the third quarter, it does not matter. I always think it’s going in when it leaves her hand and it’s only a matter of time before she hits a couple.”
Chelsea Gray came up clutch when the Aces needed it most, leading an 11-2 run where she scored or assisted on all 11 points. Plum knocked down a clutch three off a pass from Gray, which would be the dagger with under a minute remaining. Gray led he Aces in scoring with 25 points, while A’ja Wilson finished with 24 points.
“In the first half I was terrible. I kind of set the tone for the game with the turnover that I had the opening possession,” Gray said. “Just getting the best shot possible whether it was me at the pull up or I was able to kick it out to KP for a three just reading the defense the best I can.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Aces Early Turnover Troubles
The Aces’ 11 first half turnovers resulted in easy transition baskets for the Fever, allowing them to lead at halftime after scoring 16 points off Las Vegas’ turnovers. The Fever ended the half with three turnovers, resulting in seven Aces points.
“I did think we got their attention at halftime and I told them to quit throwing it to the other team,” Hammon said. “Take care of it and then just buckle down and play the defensive end.”
In the second half the Aces cleaned up the turnovers, finishing the second half with four giveaways. They picked up the intensity on defense, forcing Indiana to turn the ball over five times in the second half. The defense also held Indiana to 30 second half points after giving up 49 in the first half.
“We were able to rely on our defense,” Hammon said. “We gave up 49 in the first half and they ended up scoring about 30 in the second half. That is a 19-point difference, which is drastic.”
Containing NaLyssa Smith
In the Aces matchup with the Fever last week, NaLyssa Smith had a huge game, finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds. The high-low game between Boston and Smith gave the Aces problems in their last meeting. In the first half on Monday, the Aces slowed down Smith, holding her to 3-for-10 shooting from the field.
Kiah Stokes and Candace Parker continued to make it tough for Smith in the second half with tenacious defense, forcing Smith into contested shots. Smith finished the game with 13 points on 4-for-15 shooting from the field and 0-for-2 from three.
“Kiah being Kiah, she’s everywhere on the court for us, she’s is the defensive stopper, she’s the anchor,” Wilson said. “That how you get minutes she is always there always on time right place right time and that is the type of person that you need in those close games where you have to grind it out and she showed up and showed out.”
A’ja Wilson vs. Aliyah Boston
The two former South Carolina Gamecocks played each other for the third time this season on Monday. A’ja Wilson made her presence known early on defense, forcing Boston into tough shots and limiting her to 1-for-4 shooting from the field in the first quarter. Wilson got off to a slow start, scoring her first field goal with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter and finishing the quarter shooting 4-for-10 from the field.
Boston picked up her offensive output late in the second quarter scoring 6 points and go on to finish the first half with 10 points. Wilson got it going in the second quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting and a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line. At the half Wilson lead all scorers with 22 points.
The battle continued throughout the second half with both players continuing to draw the defensive assignment to guard one another. Both former GameCocks finished the game strong with Boston scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while Wilson ended the game with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The Aces will be back in action Thursday at home for a matchup against the New York Liberty with tip off set for 7 p.m. PT.