LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Becky Hammon couldn’t help but be pleased. After all, her Aces had just turned in a dominant performance, beating the Chicago Sky on Thursday to tie the reigning WNBA champions for the league’s best overall record.
But the coach said, “No one here wants to take first place in the regular season. … It’s not the goal. The goal is to be the last team standing. Not in the regular season but of the playoffs.”
By winning 89-78 at Michelob Ultra Arena behind 25 points from Kelsey Plum and 22 from Jackie Young, the Aces might have helped their playoff position. They moved a bit closer to securing home-court advantage for the postseason tournament.
The Aces and Sky share top spot in the league, each with 25-10 records, each with one game remaining.
A victory Sunday at home against Seattle (21-13) to finish the regular season would clinch home court for the Aces. It’d be a nice achievement but, as Hammon points out, it’s just the regular season.
The Aces, who were without top defender Dearica Hamby — she’s out up to four weeks with a bruised right knee — won Thursday on the strength of a fast start, a 3-point barrage and some clutch play in the third quarter by Young.
Young scored 16 points in the quarter and helped key an 11-0 run that pushed the Aces’ lead to 18 points.
“She decided she was going to impress herself upon the game,” said Plum. Young also had five rebounds and a pair of assists.
It was Plum who sparked the quick start, scoring 18 points in the opening half. The Aces led 47-33 at intermission.
After praising the play of her colleagues, including point guard Chelsea Gray, and calling the victory a major team effort, Plum admitted, “And I was solid.”
She led the 3-point charge, shooting 4-for-5 from long range and 8-for-13 overall.
The Aces made 9 of 21 from 3-point range to 3 of 21 for the Sky. Another difference was turnovers; the Sky had 17 to nine for the Aces.
Chicago’s Kahleah Copper, who had a game-high 28 points, said her team, loser of two straight, still has a shot at first overall.
“This isn’t rock bottom,” Copper told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re No. 2 right now. We still have the opportunity to finish first. It’s on to the next.”
Chicago finishes Sunday against Phoenix (14-20).