After the Las Vegas Aces took a 2-0 lead in the WNBA Finals last week, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, himself a winner of five NBA rings, entered the Aces locker room and shared some wisdom: The greatest victories are those on the road, he says.
Turns out it’s even sweeter when that road win gives your franchise its first-ever championship.
Chelsea Gray scored 20 points, Riquana Williams had late-game heroics off the bench, and the Las Vegas Aces won Game 4 of the WNBA Finals 78-71, winning the series 3-1 and winning the title 2022.
Gray, an All-Star game snub, was named Finals MVP.
A’ja Wilson, 2022 regular season MVP, finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas recorded her second consecutive double-double (11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) but it wasn’t enough for the Sun.
WNBA PLAYOFFS:Results of each game of the 2022 playoffs
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It’s the Davis family’s first title since 1984, when the then-Los Angeles Raiders won the Super Bowl.
Mark Davis, son of famed Al Davis, bought the Aces in 2021 and has been praised for his commitment to growing women’s sports. He hired a longtime NBA assistant — on Popovich’s team — and former WNBA great Becky Hammon ahead of the 2022 season, signing her to a million-dollar deal. Suffice to say that the investment paid off.
It didn’t come without drama though.
With 3:01 to go, Connecticut picked up six straight points to tie, 67-67. After the Sun forced a shot clock violation on a timeout, Courtney Williams hit a jumper for a 69-67 lead. But then it was time for the Vegas version of Williams to shine, as she hit 3s on back-to-back possessions for a 73-71 Vegas lead with 1:46 to go.
Connecticut then missed two looks to tie, Vegas called a timeout and with the shot clock running out, Riquana Williams landed another huge shot. His drop gave the Aces a 75-71 lead with 53.2 seconds left and all but sealed the victory. Connecticut turned it over on the next possession, and a Plum pullup gave the Aces a 77-71 lead with 25.5 seconds left. Jackie Young hit one of two free throws for the 78-71 advantage and Connecticut ran out of time.
In a brutally physical game, it was a series of small mistakes the ultimate made in the Sun, adding to Connecticut’s first loss in the playoffs (the Sun was previously 4-0 in games at elimination).
Connecticut took a 39-37 lead with 6:17 left in the third quarter — the first since 6-4 at the start — but could never get a real split. Vegas forced the turnovers all sorts of ways – a steal and a score (free throw) from Plum, a foul shot by Gray. In total, Vegas forced the Sun to 16 turnovers, which the Aces turned into 18 points
Between the two, Jones committed her fourth foul and headed to the bench with 3:15 left in the third. Jones had 11 points and seven rebounds and was just starting to warm up when she picked up her fourth; she finished with 13 points.