The House Always Wins: WNBA Champion A’ja Wilson Covers SLAM 240

The House Always Wins: WNBA Champion A'ja Wilson Covers SLAM 240

Game 1 

September 11, 2022

Aces 67—Sun 64

Michelob ULTRA Arena, Las Vegas, NV

From the time you set foot inside the Michelob ULTRA Arena, the atmosphere is electric enough to raise the hair on your arms. A sea of fans in black are headed in the same direction, ready to see a moment fans across the nation had been waiting for all year long: the start of the WNBA Finals. 

In a sold-out house of 10,135 fans, a record crowd at Michelob ULTRA, the Las Vegas Aces came out on fire, building up an early double-digit lead against the Connecticut Sun.

Out of the gate, A’ja “M’VP” Wilson showed us why she is currently being big-upped as the new face of the W. She was a vital piece of the Aces puzzle, scoring 6 of the team’s first 9 points within two minutes. Wilson finished the night with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks on 6-11 shooting from the field. Although Chelsea Gray didn’t have her strongest postseason performance, the point gawd still got it done, securing 21 points, while Jackie Young put up 11. 

On the flip side, the Sun may have not had the strongest start, but they would go on to redeem themselves in the second and third quarters, building an 8-point lead. Shortly after the Sun had their fun, LV picked the momentum back up and recaptured the lead.

In what went on to become a gritty, physical fourth quarter, Alyssa Thomas came through with back-to-back steals and layups to cut it to a 3-point game. 

Here’s an obvious take: Alyssa Thomas is really good at basketball. 

But her efforts were no match for the Aces. On the final possession, and with seconds dwindling down, DeWanna Bonner had a chance to take it to overtime but missed a three at the buzzer. Former MVP Jonquel Jones finished with 15 points, 9 boards and 2 assists, and AT finished with a double-double: 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists.

For Aces fans, this was only the beginning.

SLAM 240 featuring A’ja Wilson and the Aces is out now.

Game 2

September 13, 2022

Aces 85—Sun 71

Michelob ULTRA Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Game 1 gave the impression that this was going to be a back-and-forth series, but Game 2 proved the opposite. The Aces came out hungry in the first quarter and really never looked back. A’ja Wilson hit her stride and was able to continue doing what A’ja Wilson does: knocking down shot after shot. Like the 1-2 punch that kept teams struggling during the regular season, Wilson and Chelsea Gray continued their domination. Gray started hot, setting up the offense which had properly adjusted after Game 1. It was evident from the start that Connecticut’s defense couldn’t find a way to slow down the Aces’ offense, a huge credit to Becky Hammon’s coaching. 

The real x-factor, though, was Kelsey Plum. “I told her she needed to get her shit together,” A’ja Wilson shared in the post-game press conference. And get her shit together she did. Kelsey was aggressive in the second quarter and showed flashes of the player she’s developed into. “I know it sounds harsh,” Wilson continued. “But KP is a pro and she went out there and took care of business.” 

But then the third quarter came around and Connecticut looked to be on the verge of a major comeback. Alyssa Thomas hit her stride and Jonquel Jones knocked down a three, cutting the deficit to 3. 

And then Kelsey Plum happened. And then Chelsea Gray happened. And suddenly, the Aces were back up by 10. Then they were up by 14. Then they were up by 20. 

Wilson finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and went 10-13 from the floor. Gray closed out the game with 21 points and 8 assists, and Plum finished with 20 points and 7 assists in 35 minutes. “I appreciate that this organization believes in me, coaches believe in me, I believe in myself,” Plum shared in her post-game press conference.

It was a game that spoke volumes to the Aces’ ability to adjust on defense, holding Connecticut’s star DeWanna Bonner to just 2 points. And the win led them to a 2-0 series lead.

Game 3

September 15, 2022

Sun 105—Aces 76

Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

Win or go home. If one thing was for certain in Game 3, it was that Connecticut really, really wanted to push the series to a Game 5, and they used playing on their homecourt at Mohegan Sun Arena to their advantage.

You know when the Sun heat up, Jonquel Jones will be right there. The former MVP showed that she still has that fight in her, finishing the night with 20 points, 5 boards and 4 dimes. It was a low scoring game throughout, but the Sun shot 84.2 percent from the floor in just the first quarter, starting off with a 15-point lead. 

Alyssa Thomas again proved that she is very good at basketball. She notched a triple double (16 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists), placing her in good company with OG Sheryl Swoopes and the Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot as the third player in League history to have done so in the playoffs. 

The Aces had spurts where it looked as if they were catching momentum, but it just was never enough. The closest they cut the deficit to was 6, with Jackie Young leading their squad with 22 points with A’ja Wilson close behind with 19, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Sun from living to fight another day.

Game 4

September 18, 2022

Aces 78 – Sun 71

Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

Going into Game 4, it felt like it really could’ve gone either way, thanks to the momentum Connecticut had gained in Game 3. But then the game tipped off. 

After getting off to a 16-6 start, it looked like Vegas came to this game ready to bring the trophy home. Everyone was scoring. Chelsea, A’ja, Kelsey and Riquna Williams all got on the board early before the end of the first quarter. Connecticut was able to close the gap before the end of the first half behind Courtney Williams and Natisha Heideman, and most importantly, DeWanna Bonner started knocking down shots. The Sun closed the first half down by just 2. 

The third quarter was when it really felt like we were heading back to Vegas for Game 5. The Sun started the second half by tying the game and after a Jonquel three, and they even took their first lead. But Becky Hammon rallied her team back on track offensively. 

With three minutes left in the game, Courtney Williams hit a free throw to tie the game and then a jumpshot to give the Sun the lead. Enter Riquna Williams.

Williams took over the game in the final minutes, hitting three consecutive shots and finishing with 17 points overall, and helping the Aces hold a 75-71 lead. With 25.2 seconds left, it was Kelsey Plum who delivered the final dagger, extending the lead to 6. As the clock wound down, it was clear that the Las Vegas Aces would earn the franchise’s first-ever WNBA championship. 

When WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert stepped to the mic to announce the Finals MVP, there was no doubt that Chelsea Gray’s name would be called. She averaged 18.3 points, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in the four games.  

“I worked so hard for this,” Gray said to Holly Rowe while fighting through tears. 

The Aces showered each other with champagne in the locker room, celebrating many firsts, including Becky Hammon’s first WNBA championship in her first year as a head coach. While it may have been their first, we won’t be surprised if they run it back next year.

SLAM 240 is available now in this exclusive gold edition. Shop now.

Photos via Getty Images.

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