The Las Vegas Aces showed why they are the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. Under pressure late and after losing a big lead, the Aces never backed down and held off the No. 4-seeded Seattle Storm 110-98 in overtime on Sunday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. The Aces have a 2-1 lead in the semifinals series and are one win away from the WNBA Finals.
A’ja Wilson continued her MVP-level campaign with 34 points and 11 rebounds. She shot 14 of 20 from the field. Chelsea Gray, who is on pace for one of the best offensive performances in WNBA postseason history, chipped in with 29 points, 12 assists and five rebounds.
The Storm erased a 15-point deficit and took their first lead of the game late in the third quarter. The teams battled back and forth in front of a raucous Seattle crowd, trading big shots in the waning seconds of regulation, until the Aces took control in overtime.
The two teams each shot well with the Aces going 52.4% from the field and the Storm shooting 48.1%.
Dearica Hamby returned for the Aces in very limited action (four minutes). She suffered a bone contusion in her knee at the end of the regular season and has been sidelined thus far in the postseason. She was listed as questionable for Game 2, but did not play.
Breanna Stewart led the Storm with 20 points.
Gabby Williams returned to the Seattle starting lineup Sunday after clearing concussion protocol late last week. She sustained a concussion during the Storm’s first-round series.
Jackie Young forces OT
The fourth quarter saw both team trade big buckets in the final minute. Gray's jumper tied the game at 85 with 1:08 left.
The Storm went on a mini run from there, which seemingly put the game away with a Stewart layup and two free throws from Jewell Loyd to give Seattle an 89-85 lead with 11.3 seconds remaining. But the Aces weren't done yet. Riquna Williams drained a 3-pointer off a feed from Gray to pull the Aces within one point. Tina Charles missed a pair of free throws for Seattle, opening the door for Las Vegas.
Wilson, who may have gotten away with an extra step on her layup, scored with 2.9 seconds left to give the Aces a 90-89 lead. But who other than Sue Bird would top that with a corner 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining.
The celebration was short-lived, though, as WNBA Coach of the Year Becky Hammon drew up another clutch play and Jackie Young, who briefly left the game with an apparent knee injury, tied the game at 92-92 with a buzzer-beating layup to send the game into overtime.
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How Storm can stay alive in semifinals
Game 3 wasn't a good barometer for what the Storm need to fix. They battled back from a 15-point deficit, traded big shots in a high-pressure situation and limited mistakes. This was high-level basketball between two very good teams.
That said, Charles' missed free throws late in regulation and an overall 70.6% from the free-throw line are a good place to start making adjustments for Game 4. When even the tiniest of margins can be exploited, you don't want to give your opponent any advantages.
Stewart ended up with the Storm's team high in points, but she struggled to get going. Charles led the team for much of the game. Stewart, Bird and Loyd each need to be at the top of their games if they want to win the next two.
Aces move one game from Finals
There aren't many more adjectives for what Wilson and Gray are doing this postseason. Wilson shot 70% from the field Sunday against only two turnovers. Gray was 5-of-9 from 3-point range and dished out 12 assists against one turnover.
The nearly flawless basketball from the pair gave the Aces every chance to stay in the game and pull away in overtime. Kelsey Plum added 16 points and Williams had 14.
WNBA semifinals schedule
Game 1: Seattle 76, Las Vegas 73
Game 2: Las Vegas 78, Seattle 73
Game 3: Las Vegas 110, Seattle 98 (OT) (Aces lead, 2-1)
Game 4, Tuesday: Las Vegas at Seattle, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Game 5, Thursday: Seattle at Las Vegas, TBD on ESPN2*