Plum-led Aces hold off 2nd-half comeback effort to defeat Liberty

Kelsey Plum scored 27 points and A’ja Wilson added 23 to help the Las Vegas Aces beat the New York Liberty 107-101 on Tuesday night in New York.

Wilson also had 14 rebounds for the Aces.

The teams played last week before the all-star break and combined for the highest-scoring regulation game in WNBA history, with New York winning 116-107. This game nearly matched it.

Plum, the MVP of the all-star game, and Las Vegas (16-7) jumped all over New York and led by 14 after one and 52-28 at the half. The Aces looked to be cruising in the third quarter before Sami Whitcomb got hot for New York (9-14). She hit five three-pointers in the period to get the Liberty within 71-63 heading into the fourth quarter.

New York couldn’t get much closer. Plum and Wilson were too much in the final period, not allowing the lead to dip below seven until the final 90 seconds. The Aces made their first 24 free throw attempts before Plum missed one with 1:38 left.

Natasha Howard converted a three-point play with 1:26 remaining to get New York within 95-89.

Jackie Young then worked the shot clock down before hitting a pull-up jumper from the elbow to give the Aces some breathing room.

It nearly wasn’t enough as Sabrina Ionescu got going. She hit two three-pointers and converted a three-point play in the final 49 seconds, but Las Vegas made all 10 of its free throws, including eight by Young to seal the win. The Aces finished 34 for 35 from the foul line.

Ionescu finished with 27 points and Howard added 20 for New York, which was 15 for 31 from behind the arc.

The game marked the first appearance of Becky Hammon in New York as coach of the Aces. Hammon spent the first eight years of her playing career in New York playing for the Liberty and is in the team’s Ring of Honour. She received a warm ovation from the crowd when she was introduced pregame.

Hammon, who is fourth on New York’s career scoring list, said before the game that she was close to taking the vacant Liberty coaching position this off-season, choosing instead to take the job in Las Vegas.

“I had multiple conversations with the Tsais,” Hammon said, referring to the Liberty’s owners. “They are hard people to say no to.”

Hammon became the league’s first million dollar coach when she accepted the Aces’ offer.

The teams will meet again on Thursday in a matinee game.

Storm best Wings for 3rd straight win

Breanna Stewart scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half and Ezi Magbegor had 13 points to help the Seattle Storm beat the Dallas Wings 83-74 on Tuesday in Seattle.

Seattle (16-8) has won three games in a row and five of its last six, putting it in a virtual tie with the Las Vegas Aces (15-7) for second in the WNBA standings. That’s a game behind the Chicago Sky, the defending league champions.

Magbegor also tallied eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals for Seattle, while Stephanie Talbot added 14 points, Jewell Loyd scored 13 and Tina Charles had 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Seattle took the lead for good with 6:51 left in the third quarter following a sequence in which Stewart made a layup, a three-pointer and a short jumper in a 65-second span and then found Sue Bird for a drive-and-kick three.

Bird’s three-pointer gave her 2,445 career field goals, the seventh-most in WNBA history, passing Cappie Pondexter.

Teaira McCowan led Dallas with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots. The rest of the team combined to shoot 32.8 per cent (19 of 58) from the field. Arike Ogunbowale made finished with 12 points, while Tyasha Harris tied her season-high with 10 points and Satou Sabally also scored 10.

Allisha Gray did not play (personal reasons) for Dallas (10-14). The Wings have lost four of their last five games.

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