October 17, 2023
Las Vegas Aces will miss both Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes in Game 4
New details on Riquna Williams' availability
By Cameron Ruby, Gigi Speer and Howard Megdal
BROOKLYN — In Sunday’s WNBA Finals matchup, Chelsea Gray was helped to the locker room midway through the fourth quarter with a foot injury. The fear was that an injury could change the course of the series. Tuesday, the Aces confirmed that it had, with both Gray and Kiah Stokes ruled out for Game 4.
“They always prove bounceback factor, so we’ll see what we’re made of,” Aces head coach Becky Hammon said at shootaround ahead of Wednesday night’s Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.
The bigger question is: who will they be made of?
Multiple league sources told The Next that Riquna Williams, who has not played since her July arrest on domestic violence charges, is not on the official playoff roster, and thus ineligible to play in this series.
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Hammon discussed the potential for Candace Parker to return, but even declaring Parker available to play, even if she doesn’t play a minute, would end Alaina Coates’ hardship contract, putting Las Vegas in a further bind. Nor could the Aces simply add another hardship player — the league does not have a hard-and-fast rule on this, but has never granted a hardship in the playoffs, and would be hard-pressed to do so at this point, multiple league sources told The Next.
The biggest loss, of course, is Gray, who is averaging 15.6 points and 6.8 assists in the playoffs this year, historically elevates her game to the next level in the postseason, hitting tough shots and excelling in crunch time. Gray has started all 40 games this season for the Aces, playing 35.9 minutes per game in playoffs and leading her team to a record-setting 34 wins.
Gray’s unique ability to elevate over defenders on the mid-range pull up, her strength, and her court leadership make her a matchup nightmare for many teams. Her absence was immediately felt, as the tone on the court (and the bench) shifted, and the Aces ultimately fell to the Liberty, 87-73 in Game 3 Sunday.
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Tuesday at practice, Gray was present, but using a scooter to move. Hammon confirmed that she will be out for Game 4, but will be reevaluated for Game 5. No details on her injury have been released.
Stokes has been a starter for the Aces since Parker was sidelined with a foot injury in July. Despite her lack of offensive production (she averages 2.8 points per game), Stokes is a defensive anchor for the Aces. Stokes is also second on the team in rebounding, averaging 7.9 per game. Stokes’ injury did not appear to happen during the game on Sunday, but she was wearing a walking boot and on crutches at Tuesday’s shootaround.
Without Stokes and Gray, the Aces are down to eight players, half of which average fewer than 10 minutes per game.