September 19, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 19, 2022: ACES WIN! ACES WIN! — Las Vegas capture franchise-first WNBA title in gritty victory over Connecticut

Chelsea Gray wins Finals MVP, Alyssa Thomas makes triple-double history

Happy Monday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring Yesterday’s Recap. The WNBA season came to a conclusion Sunday night with a resounding win by the Las Vegas Aces in Game 4. After Thursday’s blowout loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Aces bounced back to secure their first championship in franchise history, and the first major league title for a Las Vegas team. Becky Hammon became the first rookie coach to win a WNBA title, and joins Sandy Brondello as the only person to win a WNBA championship as both a player and a head coach.

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Point guard Chelsea Gray was named Finals MVP, after posting one of the most effective playoff performances in basketball history. Gray rounded out the playoffs with a 61.1 percent field goal percentage, a 54.4 three-point percentage, and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. She also averaged 3.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.2 steals.

Despite coming in a deciding loss, Sun big wing Alyssa Thomas posted a second Finals triple-double, the fourth in her career. Thomas becomes the first player all-time to log four triple doubles and the first to have more than two in a single season.

(Note: Thank you for spending the 2022 WNBA season with us at The Next and at The Daily Briefing. It’s been a joy to bring coverage to your inbox (almost) every day. Don’t miss us for too long, though, as we’ll be back for coverage of the FIBA World Cup, #WNBAFreeAgency, the 2022–23 NCAA season, and much more!)

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Next, read:

  • The Washington Post’s Kareem Copeland explores the careers of former players turned front office leaders.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times’ Annie Costabile digs into the WNBA’s prioritization clause and how it might affect the 2023 Sky roster and beyond.
  • For The Connecticut Post, Maggie Vanoni pulls back the curtain on overseas recruiting in the college space, and the 5 international players slated into the 2022–23 UConn roster.
  • For ABC News (AUS), Amanda Shalala details Opals captain Tess Madgen’s basketball career and the weight of a national leadership position.

Recap, Sunday, Sept. 18 — Finals

Las Vegas beat Connecticut, 78–71, to win the series 3–1. The Aces took an early lead, going on a 16–6 run to open the game. By the early second the Sun had cut the lead to one, but quick ball movement got Las Vegas the high-percentage shots they needed to regain a double-digit advantage. As the Sun bench took the floor, however, Connecticut would take a 10–0 run to tie the score at 25 apiece. But, in the final seconds of the half, Aces off-ball guard Riquna Williams hit the second of what would become six three-pointers to bring Las Vegas back into the lead. The two teams went basket-for-basket (or missed basket-for-missed basket, depending on your perspective) through the mid-fourth, with Las Vegas staying just a handful of points ahead.

Yet, in the final three minutes, the Sun took their first lead since the first quarter off of a long two from off-ball guard Courtney Williams. Much like she did in the first half, however, the Aces’ Williams was quick to respond with back-to-back crowd-silencing three-pointers, allowing Las Vegas to take a two-point lead. As the Sun were unable to execute out of critical timeouts and couldn’t get their final shots to fall, the Aces sealed the deal. Overall, the Sun grabbed five more offensive rebounds, while the Aces snagged four more steals. Las Vegas held Connecticut to just six second chance points and five fast break points.

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Point guard Chelsea Gray led the Aces and all scorers with 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting (2–3 3pt.), five rebounds and six assists. Point guard Kelsey Plum notched 15 points on 5-for-12 from the field (3–7 3pt.), three assists and three steals against five turnovers. Center A’ja Wilson had 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting (3–6 FT), 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Wing Jackie Young had 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting (0–6 3pt., 5–6 FT), five rebounds, eight assists and two steals. Riquna Williams contributed 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting (5–9 3pt.), two rebounds and two steals off the bench for Las Vegas.

Courtney Williams led the Sun with 17 points on 7-for-18 shooting (2–3 3pt.), six rebounds and two steals. Big Jonquel Jones had 13 points on 5-for-8 from the field (2–2 3pt.), eight rebounds (three offensive) and two blocks on four fouls. Big wing Alyssa Thomas logged a triple-double of 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting, 10 rebounds (four offensive) and 11 assists, along with two blocks and two steals against four turnovers.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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