Aces coach Becky Hammon called Wednesday’s game “a tale of two halves,” and she was mostly correct.
The Aces’ 92-84 victory over the Dallas Wings in Arlington, Texas, also was a game that played out in three acts.
They spent most of the first half playing as if they still weren’t awake for the noon local tipoff in twice falling behind by 16 points, they played like the WNBA’s best team in the third quarter, then spent the final few minutes trying to hold on.
The Aces, thanks largely to Kelsey Plum’s 27 points and A’ja Wilson’s 25, got the job done even if it wasn’t always pretty. Dearica Hamby and Chelsea Gray each scored 16, with Hamby also grabbing 12 rebounds.
With the victory, the Aces (12-2) clinched the Western Conference spot in the Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament that uses designated games to determine the conference representatives. The Aces will play the Eastern representative July 26 with a prize pool of $500,000 for the participating teams.
Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
1. Trying to stay close
As the Aces were getting run off the floor in the first half, Plum and Wilson were the ones allowing them a chance to hang around.
Plum scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and Wilson totaled 12 points while making 5 of 10 shots. The rest of the Aces made 4 of 15 shots as Dallas took a 44-35 halftime lead.
Arike Ogunbowale, who led Dallas (6-8) with 28 points, had her way with the Aces in the first half by scoring 17 points.
“We came out and we were really trash,” Plum said. “We were not clicking. We were not on the same page.”
2. The big surge
The Aces actually began their comeback late in the second quarter, cutting a 39-23 deficit to 44-35 by the break. They opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run that soon was followed by a 16-2 spurt in which all five starters scored, giving them the lead for good.
“We came out of the gate lethargic,” Hammon said. “They came in more focused, more hungry. But … the girls respond pretty well and make good halftime adjustments, not only teamwise but effortwise, and you saw the difference early in that third quarter.”
On the defensive side, the Aces held Ogunbowale to four points in the third.
“I didn’t recognize that team in the first half,” Hammon said. “It wasn’t until we were able to start playing out of our defense that we were able to get separation.”
3. But that end …
From there, the Aces appeared to be well on their way to victory, going up 87-78 with 2:27 left.
The Wings cut the lead to four points with 49 seconds left, but the Aces survived after Gray and Hamby each made two free throws.
As well as Plum played most of the game, she missed two of three free throws during that late stretch and threw a pass out of bounds.
“Missing free throws doesn’t help,” Plum said, “and personally I sucked.”
Gray said the Aces were trying to get to the game’s end rather than close out the Wings.
“It was a weird five minutes,” Gray said. “I think sometimes when we do time and score, we don’t play to our strengths. When we’re picking people apart, it’s because we’re playing the way we’re supposed to play.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.