After the Las Vegas Aces took a 2-0 lead in the WNBA Finals last week, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, himself the winner of five NBA rings, went into the Aces locker room and shared a bit of wisdom: The sweetest wins are the ones on the road, he said.
Turns out, it’s even sweeter when that road win gives your franchise its first-ever championship.
Chelsea Gray scored 20 points, Riquana Williams performed some 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 capturing the 2022 title.
Gray, an All-Star game snub, was named the Finals MVP.
A’ja Wilson, the 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 from every game of the 2022 postseason
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It’s the first title for the Davis family since 1984, when the then-Los Angeles Raiders won the Super Bowl.
Mark Davis, son of the famed Al Davis, purchased the Aces in 2021 and has been praised for his commitment to growing women’s sports. He hired longtime NBA assistant — on Popovich’s staff — and former WNBA great Becky Hammon before the 2022 season, signing her to a $1 million contract. Suffice it to say, the investment paid off.
It didn’t come without some drama though.
With 3:01 to go, Connecticut reeled off six consecutive points to tie it, 67-67. After the Sun forced a shot-clock violation out of 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 it, Vegas called a timeout and with the shot clock winding down, Riquana Williams hit another huge shot. Her stepback gave the Aces a 75-71 lead with 53.2 seconds to play and all but sealed the win. Connecticut turned it over on the next possession, and a pull-up from Plum gave the Aces a 77-71 lead with 25.5 seconds to go. Jackie Young hit one of two free throws for the 78-71 edge and Connecticut ran out of time.
In a brutally physically game, it was a series of small mistakes that ultimate did in the Sun, adding up to Connecticut’s first elimination-game loss in the postseason (the Sun has previously been 4-0 in elimination games).
Connecticut took a 39-37 lead with 6:17 to go in the third quarter — it’s first since 6-4 early on — but couldn’t ever get true separation. Vegas forced turnovers in all sorts of ways — a steal and (free throw) score by Plum, a foul drawn by Gray. In total Vegas forced the Sun into 16 turnovers, which the Aces turned into 18 points
In between, Jones picked up her fourth foul and headed to the bench with 3:15 to go in the third. Jones had 11 points and seven rebounds and had just started to heat up when she picked up her fourth; she finished with 13 points.