Kelsey Plum responds to A’ja Wilson’s blunt critique with ‘assertion’ efficiency as Las Vegas Aces win Game 2 of WNBA Finals

After Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday — a slim, three-point win by the Las Vegas Aces over the Connecticut Solar — two-time MVP A’ja Wilson approached Las Vegas teammate Kelsey Plum and “told her she needed to get her s— together.”

Plum, the workforce’s main scorer within the common season (averaging 20.2 factors per sport), had struggled many of the playoffs to search out her groove, hitting simply 39% of her photographs from the sector and 26% from 3 following Game 1. And previous to hitting a key 3 late within the fourth quarter on Sunday, she began 0-for-8 from the sector.

Getting stubborn out by Wilson, which Plum mentioned she welcomed, led to a “statement game,” in Wilson’s phrases, from the 2017 No. 1 total choose on Tuesday evening, serving to propel the Aces to an 85-71 victory that positioned them one win away from clinching their first WNBA title.

“[I made] sure she understood that we need her to make shots,” Wilson mentioned, “and I know it sounds harsh, but KP is a pro, and she went out there and took care of business.”

Whereas the collection now strikes to Uncasville, Connecticut, for Games 3 and 4 (if mandatory), no workforce within the historical past of the WNBA playoffs has come again from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five collection.

Aces coach Becky Hammon mentioned Plum’s potential to get downhill was the distinction in Game 2. The previous College of Washington star made six of her seven photographs within the paint to hitch Wilson and Chelsea Grey as 20-point scorers, whereas additionally doling out seven assists that tied for a private excessive this postseason.

“A lot of times, I’m hard on myself, and I feel like I’ve been a little bit frustrated with how I’ve performed throughout the whole playoffs,” Plum mentioned. “I’m glad that they have been carrying it, and I decided to join the party.

“I really feel like in years previous, I might need dropped my head and simply gone deeper right into a gap. However by way of plenty of the issues that I have been by way of all through the years, it is simply taught me that I am at all times going to bounce again, and I do know that about myself and simply going to maintain capturing.”

Wilson and Gray continued their historic postseason tears, the former (26 points, 10 rebounds) by recording her fifth straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, tied for the longest such streak in WNBA history, including regular-season and playoff games.

“You’ll be able to say it is a run, however she’s simply achieved that each one season,” Plum said of Wilson. “I felt like she’s been probably the most constant participant evening in, evening out offensively and defensively on this league, and that is why she’s MVP. It is great.”

Gray (21 points, eight assists) compiled her fifth game in the playoffs with at least 20 points and five assists, one shy of the record for most in a single postseason.

“Chelsea Grey makes contested photographs. She makes extremely tough contested photographs,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “It is simply actually separating her proper now.”

The Aces’ big three of Plum, Wilson and Gray (67 points) nearly outscored the Sun (71 points) on their own.

Las Vegas used big first and third quarters to build its lead, and though the Sun made it a three-point game early in the third, the Aces used a 31-14 run to pull ahead by a game-high 20 midway through the fourth.

“It begins on the defensive finish,” Hammon said. “Our protection sucked. They went out and did not suck.”

At one point in the game, a miked up Hammon was shown saying she was “so pleased” the Aces were beating the Sun in the paint (24-12). Behind Plum and others, Las Vegas continued to dominate that phase of the game, ultimately outscoring the Sun inside 46-28; with 54% of their points coming from the paint, it marked the Aces’ highest rate of paint scoring for any game this postseason.

“They actually need to congest the lane, so I feel we play larger, wider, set good screens, have good angles and make good reads,” Gray said. “Plenty of instances they’ll put two folks on the ball, and the way will we cope with that after we see that and play out of these actions. As soon as we have now good spacing, we will get plenty of various things within the paint or kick out for shooters.”

Hammon’s former boss during her time as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, NBA legend Gregg Popovich, attended Tuesday’s contest and visited the Aces in the locker room following the win.

“You do not want me, but it surely was nice watching you guys play, it has been nice watching you on TV,” Popovich said as captured in a video of the interaction posted on Twitter. “The way in which you execute, the best way you play bodily, it is simply lovely to look at, truthfully. You simply play nice basketball, and it is about consistency, so you have to maintain it going.”

He then reminded the team which victories are the sweetest: “those on the street.”

The Sun now have 10 losses in Finals games, tied for the most in WNBA history with the Minnesota Lynx, while still searching for their franchise-first title. But they’re trying not to fixate on their 2-0 deficit as the series returns to their home floor.

“You have to drill it down, and we’ll get again to work with our preparation for Game 3, and all we discuss is Game 3,” Miller said. “Particularly, all we’re going to discuss is the primary quarter, and that is our strategy. I feel in the event you begin pondering we have now to win three in a row, we have now to do these sort of issues, it turns into huge.”