For the first time ever, the Las Vegas Aces are WNBA champions. On Sunday afternoon, the Aces hung on for a dramatic 78-71 win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the 2022 Finals to take the series 3-1. In addition to this being the franchise's first title, it is also the first major professional title for a team in Las Vegas.
The first half was a rugged, forgettable affair in which each team had a scoreless streak that lasted over five minutes. Thankfully, both teams settled down and found a rhythm in the second half to create a much more enjoyable experience. The game going down to the wire helped in that department as well.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Aces opened up a six-point lead and appeared to be on the verge of pulling away. Instead, the Sun converted a five-point possession after Kelsey Plum's reckless closeout on DeWanna Bonner's 3-point attempt was upgraded to a flagrant foul. That swing allowed the Sun to jump right back into the game, and they briefly grabbed the lead with 2:22 remaining on a Courtney Williams jumper.
From that point on, though, it was all Aces and all Riquna Williams. Inserted into the game when the Aces went to their small-ball lineup, Williams scored eight straight points for the Aces on a pair of 3-pointers and step-back jumper. Kelsey Plum added a bucket, Jackie Young added a free throw and that was it.
Chelsea Gray led the way for the Aces with another terrific postseason performance, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds and six assists on 9 of 13 from the field. For her efforts, not only in Game 4 but throughout the series,.
Williams came up with 17 massive points off bench, while regular season MVP A'ja Wilson added 11 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Though not one of her best offensive games, Williams did all the small things to help her team win and played all 40 minutes.
Here are some key takeaways from Game 4:
Hammon makes history
After another disappointing early playoff exit last season, the Aces decided to make a change on the sidelines and parted ways with coach Bill Laimbeer. They then offered former franchise legend Becky Hammon a long-term contract worth $1 million per year to convince her to leave the San Antonio Spurs and return to the WNBA. There was plenty of discussion about that deal, which is the richest for a coach in league history, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions the organization has ever made.
Hammon implemented a modern offensive system that elevated the entire team. They earned the No. 1 overall seed with a franchise-record 26 wins and boasted the second-best offense in league history (109.6 offensive rating). Now, they're WNBA champions for the first time ever.
In the process, Hammon made some history of her own by becoming the first former player to win a championship as a head coach and the first WNBA coach to win a title in their first season. That she did so with the franchise she played with for nearly a decade only makes it sweeter.
"I don't know, it's actually hard to put into words right now," Hammon said. "A little surreal. You know, when I took the job in December, I thought when I started kind of breaking down their rosters that I could do something with it. I had a vision of what I wanted to do with this team.
"You know, even when it got a little rocky, we stuck to it. We hit a kind of stay-down-in-the-dirt-or-get-up moment right after All-Star. Last usual, they chose to stand up. We have tremendous leadership in that locker room. We have tremendous professionals but I'll say it again, they are tremendous people."
A clean sweep for the Aces
This was a dominant season for the Aces, who had the best record in the league, won the Commissioner's Cup championship and the Finals. While the team trophies were the primary objective,along the way.
- MVP: A'ja Wilson
- Defensive Player of the Year: A'ja Wilson
- Most Improved Player: Jackie Young
- Coach of the Year: Becky Hammon
This was only the fourth time in WNBA history that a team had the MVP, Coach of the Year and won the title. The last time team to pull it off was the Seattle Storm back in 2010.
"This is amazing," Wilson said. "I say all the time, I wouldn't be where I am today without my teammates. But winning a championship is something that no one can ever take from you and once you got that down, you are in the books forever.
"But it's something that no one can ever take away from you. When you are talking about a legacy, you talk about, you have to win and I don't win without my teammates. This moment right here, this year right here is something I'm never going to forget and this is not going to be the first. I'm not going to be like LeBron and start naming off numbers and stuff, but nah, this won't be the first. And I'm just so glad I can celebrate this with Chelsea and everyone else because we worked so hard to get to this moment."
Thomas gets another triple-double
A few days ago, there had never been a triple-double in WNBA Finals history and only two triple-doubles ever in postseason play. Now, there are two triple-doubles in Finals history, and they both belong to Sun forward Alyssa Thomas. After putting up 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, Thomas had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 4.
She now holds the record for most Finals triple-doubles (two), most playoff triple-doubles (two) and most triple-doubles all-time (four).
"Alyssa was terrific and a warrior through this whole series and at times tried to put us on her back," Sun head coach Curt Miller said.
As expected, Thomas and the Sun weren't too concerned with accolades after their season came to an end. Still, the past two games, and really the entire postseason, were an incredible showing from one of the most unique players in the game.
Las Vegas Aces WNBA championship gear now available
The Las Vegas Aces have won their first WNBA championship. It's also the first championship for the city of Las Vegas. Celebrate with championship t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and more. Shop the full collection here.
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