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The Las Vegas Aces made easy work of the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the 2022 WNBA playoffs, completing a two-game sweep on Saturday night with a 37-point victory in Game 2. In the process they also made history by setting a new record for the most 3-pointers made in a game -- regular season or playoffs -- with 23. 

Now, the Aces will advance to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. They have only made the Finals on one of those occasions, however, and have never won a title. They'll hope this is the time they can finally break through. 

Here's everything you need to know about this series:

(1) Las Vegas Aces defeat (8) Phoenix Mercury, 2-0

Players to watch

Aces: A'ja Wilson

The Aces have multiple All-Stars on the roster, but Wilson is still an easy choice as the player to watch. She's put together the best season of her career, averaging 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, and is a leading contender for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. She made great strides on both sides of the ball under new head coach Becky Hammon, none more notable than her expanded range on offense. After taking just two 3-pointers in her first four seasons combined, Wilson became a legitimate threat from outside, hitting 37.5 percent of her 2.3 attempts per game. 

Mercury: Diamond DeShields

With Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi both sidelined down the stretch, the offensive burden fell to Diamond DeShields. That should continue in the playoffs, as there has been no indication that either star will return. DeShields, who won a title with the Sky last season, put up 16 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in August. She hasn't been super efficient, but she is now the engine of the Mercury's offense, and they will go as far as she can carry them. With her athleticism and shot creation ability, she's more than capable of going off for a huge game; whether she can do so multiple times in a series is another question. 

Three keys to the series

1. Does either Diggins-Smith or Taurasi return?

After coming up short in the Finals last season, the Mercury went all-in to compete for another title. Unfortunately, their plans have fallen apart over the past six months. Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia and later convicted on drug charges, Tina Charles abruptly left the team mid-season, Diana Taurasi suffered a quad injury in early August and hasn't played since and Skylar Diggins-Smith left the team for personal reasons shortly after Taurasi's injury. 

The Mercury's slim hopes of pulling an upset rest on whether either or both of them can return. Taurasi was only officially ruled out for the remainder of the regular season, but there have been no further updates on her status. Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard did not rule out a return for Diggins-Smith, but The Next reported she is "not expected" to play again this season. 

The Aces will be heavy favorites regardless, but if the Mercury go into this series without both of their star guards, they have no chance against the No. 1 seed. Both have officially been ruled out for at least Game 1. 

2. Aces' high-powered offense will be too much

Under new head coach Becky Hammon, the Aces finally embraced modern basketball. They often spread the floor and play small with A'ja Wilson at the five, were third in the league in 3-point attempts per game (26.4) and tied for first in percentage (36.1) and played at the fastest pace (98.64). 

With their wealth of offensive talent optimized under Hammon's coaching, the Aces were dominant on that side of the ball. Their 109.6 offensive rating was the best in the league by nearly four points per 100 possessions and was the highest by any team since the Mystics in 2012. 

The Mercury, to their credit, have improved defensively down the stretch as they've gone small out of necessity, and no longer get torched from the 3-point line to the extent that they did early in the season. But even if they do manage to slow down the Aces' perimeter attack to some degree, it's hard to see how they score enough points themselves to keep up. 

Their most-played lineup since Diggins-Smith and Taurasi went out has a 94.1 offensive rating and 22.1 turnover percentage over five games in August. They just don't have enough shot creation and turning the ball over once every five possessions is a disaster waiting to happen given the Aces' pace and fastbreak prowess. 

3. Don't forget about Gray

A'ja Wilson is a leading candidate for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Kelsey Plum will get MVP votes and should make First-Team All-WNBA, Jackie Young is a contender for Most Improved Player and Dearica Hamby, despite her late-season struggles and injury was an All-Star. 

And yet, for all that talent, the team's best player down the stretch was arguably Chelsea Gray. She went off for a career-high 33 points in the final game of the season to make sure the team secured the No. 1 seed, and in August put up 20.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game on 59 percent shooting. 

The four-time All-Star is playing some of the best basketball of her career, and should not be forgotten amid all of the Aces' wealth of talent. A former champion with the Los Angeles Sparks, she has more postseason experience than anyone on the roster and will be crucial to the Aces' success both in this series and beyond. 


The Mercury making the playoffs after everything they went through is a nice story, but they are overmatched here, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Las Vegas is the No. 1 seed for a reason and it's hard to imagine these games will even be competitive. Pick: Aces in 2