After winning both games at home, the Las Vegas Aces went on the road needing one win in Connecticut to lock up their first championship in franchise history, dating all the way back to their days as the Utah Starzz in the late 90s.
However, Game 3 proved it would be anything but easy as the Sun blew them out to force a Game 4 and avoid the sweep, and early on it was clear the game was going to be played at Connecticut’s preferred pace, as the two teams played slow and physical to a 30-28 halftime score, with the Aces on top.
In the third quarter, the Aces would push that lead to four, but could never fully pull away from the Sun, who continually clawed their way into the game with an answer to Vegas’ runs. The biggest of those came in the fourth quarter with a five-point possession to cut what was a 67-61 Vegas lead down to just one after Kelsey Plum was called for a flagrant foul for stepping under DeWanna Bonner on a three, giving her three free throws, which she made, followed by a bucket from Jonquel Jones to make it a one-point game.
Courtney Williams would then give the Sun a two point lead and it looked like the Aces might have been deflated by that sudden swing, until one of the more unlikely stars of the game, Riquna Williams, caught fire and carried Vegas to the win. Williams hit back-to-back threes to give the Aces a lead, followed by a tough long two to push the advantage to four with 53.2 seconds to play.
From that point, the Sun were unable to come up with an answer, as A’ja Wilson came up with a big steal on the ensuing inbound from Connecticut and Kelsey Plum put the dagger in on a turnaround in the paint to push the lead to six. Ultimately, the Aces would win with a 78-71 final score, and the celebration was on in Connecticut.
Chelsea Gray was deservedly awarded Finals MVP, averaging 18.3 points per game as she was consistently dominant, including a 20-point outing in Game 4 to help clinch the series. Plum had 15, including that dagger and some big fourth quarter buckets, Wilson had 11 points and 14 boards, and Young chipped in 13 points, but no one provided a bigger lift than Riquna Williams with 17 points off the bench including the eight straight in the closing minutes to keep the Aces in front.
For the Sun, it was a tough way to finish out another terrific season, but they were just outgunned by the team that had the WNBA’s Coach of the Year (Becky Hammon), Most Improved Player (Jackie Young), and MVP and DPOY (A’ja Wilson). The Aces were the story of the season in the WNBA and, fittingly, end the year on top, and now the question moving forward is who will challenge them next year to prevent a repeat from a deep, talented squad.