LAS VEGAS — The chants “M-V-P, M-V-P” echoed throughout Michelob Ultra Arena Tuesday night for a player who finished third in the balloting.
A’ja Wilson finished behind Breanna Stewart of New York and Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas. That didn’t deter the 9,286 Las Vegas Aces fans who believed their favorite was gypped. And while Stewart got the MVP treatment in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, Wilson was getting similar love from her crowd on the Vegas Strip.
If you want to feel sorry for someone, it shouldn’t be Wilson. It should have been the Dallas Wings, who had to deal with a player who didn’t get her just due after being the MVP in 2020 and again in 2022.
Wilson finished with 30 points, 16 in the first half despite playing with two fouls from the first quarter, and went 10-for-10from the foul line and had 11 rebounds as the Aces beat Dallas 91-84 to take a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-five WNBA Semifinals. Game 3 is Friday in Dallas.
“It hurt like hell, it really did,” Wilson said of not being named MVP and somehow got a fourth-place vote from one of the media members which did the MVP voting. “But it’s all part of the game.
“It hurts across the board, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to harp on it very long because we have a competitive team to play against in Dallas and that’s my main focus. (Aces coach) Becky (Hammon) called me, and I was like, ‘Give me 24 hours and I’m here.’”
She was here all right. Here, there and everywhere. Making layups and jumpers. Hitting the boards. Coming up with steals.Blocking shots Once again, Dallas had no answer for Wilson and that’s a problem for the Wings who will look to stave off elimination.
“She’s pulling in her bag,” Wings coach Latricia Trammell said of Wilson. “We’ve done a good job trying to make it difficult for her. We’ve got to keep her off the free-throw line.”
Hammon was none too pleased with the voting. She wondered out loud if any national media were attending her pregame media availability Tuesday.
“Math doesn’t lie,” she said. “(A’ja) probably put together the most dominant individual performance this league has ever seen. “A’ja was the most dominant player in the league, on the most dominant team, on the most dominant offense the league has ever seen. With the No. 1 defense.
“I don’t know what more the girl has to do, other than the East Coast media has to wake up and watch our games.”
But it wasn’t all Wilson Tuesday. Chelsea Gray had the kind of dominant game that has made her a star in this league, finishing with 23 points. Kelsey Plum once again wielded a hot shooting hand to chip in with 18 points.
But the Aces are still having trouble limiting Dallas to more than one shot per trip. The Wings had 19 second-chance points off 21 offensive rebounds and it seemed like the Wings had more than that.
“We don’t want to give up 21 offensive rebounds,” Wilson said. “If we can slow them sown a little bit, we should be all right.”
Wilson set a couple of milestones Tuesday. She became the first player in WNBA history to eclipse 1,000 points in the regular season and playoffs combined. She’s also the first player to score 30 or more points in three straight playoff games.
Wilson managed to keep it all in perspective.
“I’m not ticked off,” she said about the snub and whether it added motivational fuel for her. “I’m happy to be here and play basketball.
“There’s a lot more people out there struggling with different things so I can’t even harp on not winning the MVP award. There’s people out there that don’t have food, water, shelter, so I’m blessed.”
And as her coach said after Game 2, exceptional and special.