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

After Game 1 of Sunday’s WNBA Finals — a narrow three-point victory for the Aces over the Connecticut Sun — two-time MVP A’ja Wilson reached out to Las Vegas teammate Kelsey Plum and “told her, she have to fetch them s— together.”

Plum, the team’s top scorer in the regular season (20.2 points per game average), struggled to find her groove in most of the playoffs, hitting just 39% of her shots from the field and 26% of 3 after Game 1 And before that, until she hit a key 3 in the fourth quarter late Sunday, she started 0-on-8 from the field.

“At the end of the day, that’s what she has to do,” Wilson said. “[I made] Sure she understood that we needed her to record and I know it sounds harsh, but KP is a pro and she went out there and took care of business.”

Being berated by Wilson, which Plum said she welcomed, led to a “statement game,” in Wilson’s words, from the 2017 No. 1 overall pick on Tuesday night, which helped propel the Aces into an 85-71 win floating above the sun positioned her one win away from her first WNBA title.

While the series is now moving to Uncasville, Connecticut for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary), no team in WNBA playoff history has come back from a 0-2 deficit to have a best-of-five series to win.

Aces coach Becky Hammon said Plum’s ability to come downhill was what made the difference in Game 2. The former Washington star made 6 of his 7 shots in the paint to join Wilson and Chelsea Gray as 20-point scorers during she also gave out seven assists, tying for a personal high this postseason.

“A lot of times I’m hard on myself and feel like I’ve been a little frustrated with how I’ve been doing throughout the playoffs,” Plum said. “I’m glad they wore it and I decided to join the party.

“I feel like maybe over the past few years I’ve put my head down and just gone deeper into a hole, but through a lot of the things I’ve been through over the years it’s just taught me that I always do.” I’m going to bounce, and I know that about myself, and I’m just going to keep shooting.”

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

“You can tell it’s a run, but she’s been doing that all season,” Plum said. “I felt like she was the most consistent player in this league offensively and defensively and that’s why she’s MVP. It is great.”

Gray (21 points, 8 assists) compiled her fifth game in the playoffs with at least 20 points and five assists, a just short of the record for most in a single postseason.

“Chelsea Gray makes contested shots. She makes incredibly difficult contested shots,” said Sun coach Curt Miller. “It’s really separating them right now.”

The Big Three of Aces Plum, Wilson and Gray (67 points) almost alone outperformed Sun (71 points).

Vegas used the big first and third quarters to extend their lead, and although the Sun made it a three-point game early in the third, the Aces capitalized on a 31-14 run to go mid-fourth with a game high of 20 to pull forward.

“It starts at the defensive end,” Hammon said. “Our defense sucked. They went out and didn’t save.”

At one point in the game, Hammon was shown with a mic saying she was “so lucky” that the Aces beat the Sun in the suit 24-12. Behind Plum and others, Vegas continued to dominate this phase of the game, eventually surpassing the Sun 46-28; 54% of their points come from paint, which is the Aces’ highest paint-scoring rate for a game this postseason.

“They really want to clog lane, so I think we’re going to play higher and wider, put up good screens, have good angles and get good reads,” Gray said. “Often they put two people on the ball and how do we deal with that when we see that and play out of those actions. Once we have a good distance, we can paint a lot of different things in the ball or knock out for shooters.”

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

“You don’t need me but it’s been great watching you guys play, it’s been great watching you guys on TV,” Popovich said, as captured in a video of the interaction posted to Twitter. “The way you perform, the way you play physically, it’s just beautiful to look at, honestly. They just play great basketball and it’s about consistency, so you have to keep it going.”

Then he reminded the team which victories are the most beautiful: “the ones on the road”.

The Sun now has 10 finals losses, the most in WNBA history with the Minnesota Lynx, while still seeking their first franchise title. But they try not to fixate on their 2-0 deficit when the series returns home.

“You have to break it down and we’re going to get back to work with our prep for Game 3 and all we’re talking about is Game 3,” Miller said. “Specifically, we’re only going to talk about the first quarter and that’s our approach. I think when you start thinking we’ve got to win three in a row, we’ve got to do things like that, it’s going to be big.” Kelsey Plum responds to A’ja Wilson’s blunt critique with ‘statement’ performance as Las Vegas Aces win Game 2 of WNBA Finals

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